Oil painting of cows by Noel Hefele

The Sitting Cows

Sitting cows in Dartington oil painting by Noel HefeleThis oil painting on canvas measures 2′ x 2′

When I first arrived in Dartington, I was told that the cows sit down when it is going to rain. I was unable to directly prove this during my time here, but it seems possible. It brings up interesting questions about the sensory perception of animals. What do they know that is outside our immediate grasp?

The cows have been a significant presence here at Dartington. When I first arrived in the fall I realised they had a pattern that I would learn. Somedays they would be in one field, and then others they would be several fields across the way, moved by those invisible Devon farmers (it took me over nine months to see a farmer interacting with cows) Or were these a different herd of cows? One day, they disappeared for the winter. In the springtime, they were back, only smaller and younger looking.

The cows are absolutely massive creatures with incredibly squared off hind quarters. They are very skittish as well. I remember once walking across a field through a herd of about twenty. They nervously parted and kept their large glassy eyes on me. Suddenly I was surrounded. Cows in all directions;  scared of me while I was thinking “Wow, these cows could very easily kill me,” cautiously continuing through the herd. Cows have a long and complicated relationship with humans. There are estimatedly 1.3 billion cows in the world today.