Animals in Mexico, part 2, Cattle

Cows in Mexico.  They’re everywhere!  And they’re so useful.  We love our beef and our cheese and our yogurt.

While we down here do eat them and their byproducts, cattle are pretty much sacrosanct, as they are in the Hindu areas of India.  It’s just that we not only revere them for themselves, we revere them for the tasty treats they provide.  But we see beef from a little different perspective than most of you folks who live NOB [i.e. north of the Mexican border].

When you think of beef, this is probably what you think of:

But around here, this is what we see:

Or maybe you think of a lovely steak on the grill, like this one:

In Mexico, here’s what we see:

But as I mentioned previously, cows are ubiquitous in Mexico.

Here are a few of my favorite cow stories from around Jocotepec.   I’m afraid I don’t have many photos of cows because they are so prevalent that I take them for granted and I don’t take their picture.  Shame on me!

My first story comes from the time while I was living in the little pueblo of San Cristobal Zapotitlan on the south shore of Lake Chapala.  One afternoon, I was taking my daily constitutional (i.e. walking to the neighborhood abarrote to buy cigarettes), when I realized that I had made an error in my timing.

As I left the store, I found myself about ten feet in front of the afternoon portion of the twice-daily cattle drive that went down my street.  About 10:30 in the morning and about 5:30 in the afternoon, 20 or 25 cows came down my street on their way to or from the lake.  They were always accompanied by a varying number of small dogs without one good herding instinct among them and by at least one cowherd.  Usually, a teenager on a bike using a cohete stick to herd the cattle with.

I had often waited inside my gated parking area to back out when the cows were passing, but this day I found myself on foot just ahead of the herd.  Even while I was having flashbacks to old Western movies about people being trampled in a stampede, I noticed that even at my old fat woman pace, I was still keeping ahead of the herd.

So there we were on the dusty streets of San Cristobal Zapotitlan.  Me, the slow moving cows, the little dogs, and the teenager on the bicycle brandishing a cohete stick.  It was one of those “I do believe I am not in the US anymore” moments.

My friend Bob in Chapala told me his favorite herding sight.  I’ll quote it here in in its entirety.

“It was in Zacoalco De Torres, that ancient and nearby bustling backwater berg made famous for their equipale [furniture] designs and manufacturing.

After shopping and lunch we decided to drive around and explore the town.  Stopping at an ‘intersection’ just because, our jaws dropped and eyes widened as a fully mature Texas longhorn bull trotted by with two muchachos peddling furiously in pursuit.  WTF?!  I swear the bull was bigger than a Cadillac SUV and his horns seemed to span the road from curb to curb.

Our shock quickly turned to laughter and screaming as everyone was like, “Follow that bull!” So we made it a parade:  a bull, dos muchachos, and a car load of fat old gringos jabbering stuff like, “Oh my God, there’s some kids in the road just ahead!”  “I hope nobody spooks that monster!”  Then after a minute we realize no one is paying any attention to BULLZILLA.  No screaming, no grabbing of children and ducking for cover, no panic, no nada.

Well, after zigzagging another 7 blocks the bull trots into a roadside corral and the boys execute a couple of pretty slick brodies [on their bikes] and raise their arms and smile broadly at us like, Ta Da!  They seemed to be quite pleased to have such a captive audience as we clapped and hooted our appreciation.

We found out later, from an old goat who prided himself in being the only gringo who actually lived there, that everyday, rain or shine, the boys would shepherd the town’s prized breeding bull across town to a favored watering hole where they’d play and splash around before heading back to the corral.  No big.”

And, finally, from my friend Mike in Joco, I got this story from ‘downtown’ Joco and these photos:

“I took these during a visit to the IMSS clinic, on Donato Guerra. When referring to the street, most folks just say “the street that the recreation center in on.”

As I got in front of the Fire Dept.’s building, I could see that the road was blocked ahead, but not what was doing it.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the country, but trying to get my brain cells to comprehend what I was seeing took me a moment. The entire street, curb to curb, was filled with cows and a few calves.

The cows were so accustomed to traveling down the street that when they got up as far as me they made a neat line so as not to hit the truck. Everyone is so casual about this.  [It’s] not an uncommon occurrence.  If you look to the far right on photo 2 and 3, you’ll see a guy on a motorcycle.  He could have easily gunned through the intersection, but he just waited patiently until the “pedestrians” moved on.

It is probably a good thing there wasn’t a Fire/Rescue emergency while our four footed friends were heading to pasture.”

And before you see Mike’s photos, here’s your song for today:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91tkkJ3LRRY&feature=related

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About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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3 Responses to Animals in Mexico, part 2, Cattle

  1. Joe Jensen says:

    Got a chuckle out of this post….you spent way too much time in your life around people and not enough around critters and critter people…….lol Thru out the rural West and plains you see a lot of herdin’ goin’ on down the roads……..takes fewer people to control the herd…….lol When I lived in central and western Nebraska, we used the roads a lot to go from one pasture to another. When up in eastern Oregon, We drove 26 miles to summer pasture in spring and home in the fall with all but two miles being public roads. Liked the pics and stories…..By the way, it’s not a north or south of the border thing. It’s a cowboy, vaqureo, charro vs. a tourista, dude, city slicker kinda thang. Kinda like oil and and water?….

    • Barbara says:

      Taking the ROADS is one thing….taking a herd through downtown was something [outside of what they do in Ft. Worth] new to me. And yet now I think nothing about it. On the carretera [the main highway] between here and Ajijic/Chapala, it is very common to see a herd of cattle or goats crossing. And there are always horses and burros alongside the highway. Since you never know if they are loose or tethered, everybody has to slow down as they pass so they can brake rapidly if the animals decide to meander onto the roadway.

  2. purplepatty says:

    I was raised in eastern Oregon amongst the Herefords. Compared to Mexican cows, they are boring; all looking the same. These Mexican cattle are really interesting looking and mostly beautiful, from a cow point of view. Many have a hump and a bit of Brahma in them to be able to handle the heat. Red, black, white, brown, gray and all colors mixed up. Short horns, long horns, polled (horn cut) and some with really long horns. I love Mexican cattle.

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