talking herds

by Andrea Gaddini
Professor of Buglottology and Friesian Phylology - Oxword University

In previous works we denounced the specist discrimination against cattle, aimed to negate evidences which are of common knowledge, like the skill of cattle to fly, swim, live in a cave and their extraterrestrial origin. The audacious negation of the cattle skill to talk was then also foreseeable ; this skill is ascribed to mules (Francis the talking mule, image 1), crickets, cats and foxes (Pinocchio) and to ducks and mice (Walt Disney), but never to the nice, intelligent and above all loquacious ruminants. The famous Disney's Clarabelle is the sole exception (image 2), and she is moreover too much integrated in human society and even engaged in an odd love affair with a horse (image 3).
Anyway the bovines' capacity to talk is well-known since the Roman Age: Titus Livy, in his History of Rome (III, 10) tells that in 461 b.C. several prodigies occurred, like a rain of meat and a cow who talked, an event which happened also the previous year, but was not believed true (Bouem locutam, cui rei priore anno fides non fuerat, creditum). Livy also tells (XLIII, 13) that in Anagni (in Frosinone district, 50 Mi from Rome), two other prodigies occurred: a torch appeared in the sky and again a cow talked (Anagnia duo prodigia eo anno sunt nuntiata, facem in caelo conspectam et bouem feminam locutam)
Even Plutarch (Marcellus, 28), tells that in 208 b.C. an ox spoke as humans do.
The importance given to cattle statements is confirmed by Plinius the Elder: he tells that, when a bovine talked, the Senate met in the open air, like in every other exceptional events. (Naturalis Historia, VIII, 70: 183).
The ancient authors previously quoted don't report the subject of bovine declarations, but Varro instead (De Re Rustica, II, 5, 5), relates that an ox spoke to support Plautius, a candidate for the praetorship, against his rival Irrius; this fact was debated in the Senate, and this is an evidence of the importance given to that electoral sponsorship.
he ingenuousness of the ancients made them deem a bovine oratorical performance as a prodigy, while the real oddity was that a bovine was unawarily caught by humans while conversing or that a phrase slipped from her mouth, probably under the effect of emotion. Both events referred by Titus Livy are about cows, and the fact they are more loquacious than bulls is of common knowledge.
It seems moreover that the great Cicero hid himself to spy on cattle, to take inspiration on their oratory to compose his renowned pleadings, while other authors think he himself was a bovine, and this could explain his brilliant eloquence
Another great poet, Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (1791-1863), explains us the reason for the human oppression against the animal loquacity: "The Man took the words away to the animals/ So he could talk alone and be always right" (The Beasts of the Garden of Eden, 1834 December 19

The etymology of cattle breeds' names clears up which are the most loquacious: the widespread Jersey and Guernsey breeds in the past were named "Jersay" and "Guernsay", including the word "say". In German "reden" means "to talk", and it's obviously derived from "rinden", meaning "cattle", which characterize the Bos taurus as the pre-eminent talking species.
The well-known Charolaise beef breed takes its name from an excessive wordiness, such that its company its not agreed by other cattle, even if some compatriot find it funny (
image 4).
Chianina cattle owe its name to the habit of speaking in a low voice (in Italian "pianino") and often behind mates' back (
image 5); cows pasturing on mountain areas, on the contrary, use to speak aloud to drown the cowbells' ring (image 6).
The dull skepticism about bovine conversations is partially supported by the natural shyness of the dignified ruminants, which drives common people not to believe to bovine flight (
see): it is actually well-known that cattle don't like to show off and moreover they have a very meditative nature and prefer to reflect very well (image 7) before saying anything.
Unfortunately in the cattle population some blameworthy habits are diffused, like speaking to themselves, which occurs more often to animals living in lonely areas, like the Highland breed (
image 8).
It is documented the cattle's skill to pronounce all the vowels sounds: the "a" (
image 9), the "e" (image 10), the "i" (image 11), the "o" (image 12) and the "u" (image 13), but it seems they have troubles with some consonants, mainly the liquids (l, r), while they pronounce well the labials (image 14), and obviously the nasals, in particular the "m" (image 15).

The bovine tongue, or better the bovine language, to avoid any easy irony, seems to be the same all over the world, even if philological studies are difficult to perform, since the wordy ruminants usually prefer to keep the secret on lexical structure of their language, whispering one other in the ear. Nevertheless this habit is maybe owed to the shame to show their dialect inflexions, like in Marchigiana (image 16) or Chianina cattle (image 17).

A fact that it's not historically reliable, contrary to the others quoted before, is that the well-known poem by Giosue' Carducci "t'amo pio bove" (I love you, devout ox) was not inspired, but straight whispered to the poet from a Maremmana ox, so the Nobel prize of 1906, which had to be awarded to a bovine, was instead usurped by the still great Tuscan poet.
Here is a suggestion for those who want to catch a conversations between bovines: don't hide and observe them at meal hour, since the innate good manners of the ruminants prevent them from talking when chewing (
image 18).
We can then recall that also the water buffaloes, closely related to cattle, can speak (
image 19), even if by their shyness they do it mainly by night (image 20).
Some authors assume that also writing could be a bovine invention, later on usurped by humans: it's easy to remind the ancient bustrophedic writing (
image 21), going alternatively from right to left or from high to low and vice versa, like an ox pulling the plough on a field. This way to write could be invented just by an ox, tired and bored by the whole-day hard working up and down the field, with no opportunity to read something while pulling the plough, and neither to solve crossword puzzles, the cattle's best-loved hobby (image 22).
The peculiar structure of the splitted hoof (
image 23) looks like created by the nature to hold a pen, instead it's seriously handicapped on computer writing, by the reduced dimensions of computer keys (image 24), and this is probably one more contrivance of human lobby to impeach the free expression of bovine creativity.

In conclusion, as a further testimony on bovine loquacity, we report an amusing story, surely referred to a real event:

Amazing talking cow (from

A man's car stalled on a country road one morning. When the man got out to fix it, a cow came along and stopped beside him. "Your trouble is probably in the carburetor," said the cow.
Startled, the man jumped back and ran down the road until he met a farmer. The amazed man told the farmer his story.
"Was it a large red cow with a brown spot over the right eye?" asked the farmer. "Yes, yes," the man replied.
"Oh! I wouldn't listen to Bessie," said the farmer. "She doesn't know a thing about cars."

We hope this work can throw some of light in the dark of skeptical obscurantism, and this could open the way to our amazing revelations on cattle singing.

comics on talking cattle

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my works of upsetting scientific vulgarization on cattle

page last updated: February 10th 2007