Boy riding a cow in the 1950s in Minnesota, courtesy Life magazine.
One hears a lot about cowboys and cattle herding, but very little about people actually riding on cows. When my friend Todd W told me about his history as a Cow Rider, I knew that I had to interview him for this blog.
Me: Todd, I understand that you used to ride cows as a child. Can you tell me about how you got started?
Todd: As a small child, my grandparents lived close to each other. One had a small hobby farm with horses and ponies. That is where I learned and honed my skills as a rider.
When my family and I would leave, we would drive down the dirt road to the other grandparents home. Which was a small dairy farm, and of course, being the next Roy Roger, I wanted to continue riding. But one problem, they only had cows to ride, so my parents plopped me on the back of one, and that is how I got started.
Me: What does riding a cow feel like? Is the cow mostly cooperative?
Todd: Mind you, I was riding bareback with no reins, so it was probably harder than it needed to be. Physically, it was awkward. Cows have very broad backs. I kind of felt like a turkey wishbone being pulled apart as I was doing gymnastic splits incorrectly. There was no way I could have put my feet in stirrups, even if I had a saddle.
Mentally, I was beginning my failed attempt at becoming a pro rodeo bull rider, so I was elated.
The cow was VERY cooperative. At a full trot, we moved about two feet for another mouthful of grass.
Me: Writers love details. Do cows smell differently than horses? Are they sweatier or less sweaty?
Todd: Why, yes, they do. I can only describe a cow’s smell as earthy and a horse as musky. I slightly prefer the scent of a cow over a horse, unless the horse is standing in hay. Then the aroma is greatly improved.
From personal experience, I have never been on or seen a cow that sweats, so I guess the horse wins.
Me: How far did you wind up traveling on your cow?
Todd: Over a three year period, I would estimate about 30 feet. 20 feet of that was due to the fact that I rode once from the barn to the pasture.
Me: What was the silliest thing that happened to you while cow riding?
Todd: It would have to be the time I turned around and sat backwards to figure out what everyone was pointing and laughing at. The odor soon gave me the clue I was looking for. You know, thinking back on that, I wonder why there is cow pie bingo when the cows never move.
Me: Do you have a current picture of you (with or without a cowboy
hat) that you would like to share?
Sorry, no photos available. I do believe there are rules concerning hats and riding animals though. I believe the people riding horses and herding cattle are allowed to wear cowboy hats. If you ride a cow, no hat is required, but if you insist on wearing one, it should be a baseball cap that says John Deere or have a grain storage facility logo on it.