Lovely word, is bovine.
Almost onomatopoeic in its evocation of the large and gentle, the slow moving, the non-threatening and the (usually in my mind) black and white, breathy nodding and nudging of those strong docile heads, with their long-lashed dark, chocolatey eyes.
From a car or train, they create a reassuring wallpaper, a very English presence slowly hoovering the grass carpet upon which they leisurely roam.
And then there’s the swaying cattle train of the herd obediently winding towards the milking sheds. Head to tail, they rhythmically plod a well- worn track, gladly heading to give up their grass enriched milk for our consumption. There’s a sense of routine, of ongoing tradition and of a romantic link to the past with biscuit tin milkmaids and a simpler, happier life.
So what actually happens when you climb the stile into the cattle field in the Derbyshire Peaks, full of naïve admiration for your rustic surroundings? Conveniently small rucksack on your back, packed with walker’s delight type refreshment; and with shirt sleeves rolled and walking boots bespecked with the odd badge of self-affirming mud, you stride out across the uneven but welcoming, lush grass……
And lo, the idyll dissolves, as, from the corner of your eye, you catch the young bullocks yonder, one after the other, raise their heads in a precociously inquisitive way. And you feel the need to hasten your step a little, not in alarm, you understand, but just to reach the other side of the field promptly. You try to ignore the unmistakable signs of agitation, of movement, of outright boisterous delight from the young beasts as they chivvy each other, sending covert signs to gird their loins and to rally the gang. A couple of them kick up their back heels, energy surging into their enthusiastic bodies and, before you know it, they’re all on the move. And it’s not a slow approach. Oh no, they’re keen to make an impression and, unfortunately for you, you are their target.
And suddenly, you know it, absolutely. That is when you dash the last few meters to the style and launch yourself over it. Because you’re not ready to negotiate; you don’t know the language and anyway, these lot look like they’re ready to have some fun.
Of course, from the other side of the stile, things look so much better and you can climb back into your happy nostalgic dream of a rural life that safely nestles in books and period dramas. Because cattle are multi-faceted and we just have to work out which version is in the field.