We experienced more unexpected adventure last night….but this time, it wasn’t my animals or my fault!
The kids and I were doing our thing late yesterday afternoon; I was thinking about what to do for dinner and anticipating S arriving home in a couple hours, when the phone rang. It was my neighbor. She was out of breath, sounded completely panicked, and immediately asked for S–which is unusual for her to do. I told her he wasn’t home, and asked if she was OK. She explained their bull had escaped, was holding up traffic on the nearby highway, and she didn’t know what to do. I told her to give me 5 minutes to situate things on my end, and I’d be there to help. BTW, outside of some veterinary procedures a number of years ago, and a cattle drive I got to help out with, I have no experience with cattle!
Now this sweet neighbor is about a year or so ahead of us in this self-sufficient lifestyle thing, and they started with cows, among other animals. They bought a group lot of some dexter cattle–1 heifer and a cow with a bull calf, and a zebu bull. The cows were wild, but thanks to the nature of the dexter, they were easy enough to get used to and deal with. As backyard enthusiasts, like us, they have no special livestock handling equipment, and just make use of what they do have. Early this year, they coaxed the zebu bull into their 2 horse trailer, and hauled him to the butcher. By the end of this summer, the dexter bull calf had grown enough they decided it was time to haul him in as well. Same as previously, they backed the trailer up, started feeding in the trailer, and one morning, were ready for when the bull walked into the trailer. They slammed the door shut. In a split second, there was a commotion inside the trailer, and the bull came leaping over the small window opening of the doors, and right back into his pasture. Since he wouldn’t go near the trailer again, he was granted a reprieve for a few months, to grow a bit more. Early this week, they decided to try again, feeding in the trailer to re-train the bull.
Yesterday, they were more prepared, and while I’m not sure of details, they decided to only leave the tiny little emergency man-door open on one side to help brighten the trailer (see photo found online above of a similiar type of trailer). Otherwise, everything was all sealed up. The bull entered the trailer, the owner shut the back door, and all seemed well. As he turned to shut the little man-door, the mature bull amazingly lept out through it. I truly don’t know how that was physcially possible looking at that tiny little door. I have personally left similiar sized openings when training animals and the worst situation I had was a horse get it’s head momentarily stuck in the opening. In any case, this bull lept out the opening–which was NOT in the pasture, and suddenly found himself free, completely panicked, and running for the highway. Thus the adventure began.
By the time I got myself dressed in winter gear, situated the children safely, and grabbed my large horse-training rope (mostly for my own defense), they had pushed him to one corner of the highway’s intersection. I arrived and took over directing traffic (I used to volunteer with the police department and that was one of our jobs). By this time, they were at a bit of a loss as to what to do, as the bull was refusing to go back through the open gate of his pasture, having passed it multiple times. Additional help arrived, and once traffic had cleared, we decided to attempt to slowly push him toward the gate again. So no one had to get too close to him (remember, he is an in-tact bull, with horns, and not in a good mood!), I used the popper end of my rope to smack the ground. It worked, and eventually the bull began to move down the less-busy road, away from the semi-busy highway, and toward his gate. He walked slowly for a while, but once he arrived near his gate, for some reason, he took off–right past his gate. He had no interest in entering that field. I took off running down the highway, which was where he was now headed as he circled his pasture.
Don’t worry, mom, I wasn’t running down the middle of the road, and my safety was as much my priority as it could be. Nonetheless, by acting a little nutty, it caused traffic to slow such that if I saw the bull coming, I could easily stop them. Except for the few idiots speeding down the road who couldn’t really have cared less about the crazy woman in the middle of nowhere or the loose bull. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.
About this time, a police cruiser happened down the highway, and my thought was “Great! He can turn on his lights to caution traffic! Perfect!” The owner ran over to discuss the situation, and after a brief chat, the cop left, never to be seen again. So much for that idea. I guess he figured we could handle it. I still can’t figure that one out.
So, to prevent boring you to death with the story, we finally got him calmed down and on the corner again. I had the owner park his SUV, with flashers on, in a location that would help slow traffic, and us 3 totally inexperienced and horse-less cattle wranglers had an impromptu planning session. I considered mounting the donkey and pushing him with Shiloh, but figured she would more likely bolt, and I was far more likely to slide off right in front of a charging bull. Facts were, he had had his chance, traffic was potentially in danger of hitting him, he refused to go in his gate, he was too stressed and too wild to be safe, he had originally been headed to the butcher anyway, he was only about 200 lbs bigger than the massive goats my husband and I recently slaughtered, and it was starting to get dark. For everyone’s safety, we agreed the best outcome was to shoot him on the spot, and S and I would help them save the meat.
There were a few problems with this idea, however. First, S wasn’t even home yet, and had no idea this situation was going on. Second, due to the incredible thickness and hardness of the skull, a bull is not an easy animal to kill without the right equipment. Ideally, (as I learned back in my vet-tech days) a bull should be shot or stunned in the center of an imaginary X, created by running imaginary lines from one ear to the opposite eye, thus forming the X. It brings instant, painless, and humane death to the bull (or horse, sheep, pig, etc.). Pros use a chute or trailer for confinement, run the bull in, and shoot it at point blank range, thus ensuring they hit the mark. A second option is to shoot the bull from behind like S did the goats a few weeks ago. When shot at the correct angle, it too will cause instant death. A third option is shoot it in the heart or lungs like hunters shoot wild game. This requires good aim and a high-powered rifle, but is somewhat less humane since the animal literally bleeds to death.
Our resources were limited to one amateur shooter, a 9mm pistol, and a wild bull who wouldn’t let us close enough for a frontal shot, nor turn his head away and be still long enough for a rear-head shot. Not a good mix. But, it’s all we had, and it was getting dark fast. At the same time, I had 5 children home unattended. I convinced the owners wife (who was assisting, but nearest to the house since she, too, had children) to keep a check on my children. Then, the designated shooter got as close to the bull as possible, I ensured traffic was cleared out (in case the bull panicked), and BOOM! I was not able to see the bull or the shooter since he was hidden behind some bushes, but the next thing I knew, the shooter was running away from me and the highway, down the less busy road, and the owner ran and jumped in his SUV, and took off after him. Then I saw the bull running wildly down the center of the road, away from me, with the 2 guys in hot pursuit. About that time, an adventurous driver in a huge SUV joined in the chase, worked with the owner, and they cornered him against a fence. After a few minutes, they got him directed back toward his gate at a “trot” pace instead of a mad dash. Since I had positioned myself to control traffic, I momentarily lost sight of him and the shooter, but suddenly heard BOOM! again. I hoped to hear cheers, but instead, within moments, I saw the bull making another mad dash past his gate, along his pasture, and back up toward the highway.
Now another factor was introduced. By this point we were well into dusk, and my vision is poor at night without my glasses–which, of course were in the van, which S had at work. At the same time, we were dealing with a crazy, angry, totally panicked bull, twice shot at (but no clue if he had been hit), and dark brown in color, running through forest shadows right toward the highway–which was getting busier with rush hour. I also realized I wasn’t dressed in anything reflective or easily visible. I needed a flashlight, but there was not time to run get one.
So, I unzipped and opened my jacket so my lighter-colored shirt would be exposed, and ran down the side of the highway to hopefully intersect the bull and slow traffic coming over the blind hill. Then, I completely lost sight of the bull. I figured he would be rounding the corner and coming towards me any moment, so I started looking around for a tree or ANYTHING to duck behind if necessary. I was out of luck in my current position. Then, I heard a noise behind me, and spun around to see the nutcase of a bull 50 feet away and running straight at me! Somehow, after entering the trees, he had doubled back, and circled the opposite way without me noticing. Thankfully, all the cars had seen him (or the crazy lady on the side of the road) and come to a complete stop in every direction. I momentarily checked to ensure no cars were coming, and I high-tailed it across the road to the safety of the other side, conveniently positioning an innocent vehicle nearby. I guess, for a moment, I prefered to take my chances with a 4,000 lb idiling SUV on a busy highway than a 450 lb. crazed bull who’d already been shot at twice and not flinched!
The bull passed, I started twirling my rope again, and we got him off the road, and headed back toward his gate. I cleared the traffic, and ran back toward the corner, assuming he was still heading that way. I also knew with the increasing darkness, it was becoming less safe for me to be on the side of the highway. My goal at that point was to help get him calmed down and stopped in a safe spot, and then get some flashlights and reflective gear. Suddenly, I saw the owner’s SUV speeding down the highway toward me, and my gut told me he was following the bull. You know, the dark-colored bull, running through the forest shadows, and that I can’t see thanks to the dim light!
All I can say is thank GOD and the utility company for power poles! I found the nearest one and ducked behind it, watching closely. The pole seemed awfully skinny as that SUV got closer. Then, I could hear the hoof beats getting closer, but I still couldn’t see him since he was in the shadows. Finally, just as the SUV got about 30 feet away, the bull appeared from the shadows, bolted past the vehicle, and then about 10 feet past me–as I quickly twirled around the pole, always keeping it between him and me.
For some reason that only God knows, on that round, the bull ran right into his gate, into his pasture, and you can imagine how the frazzled owner slammed that gate shut! As the bull trotted through the pasture to join the 2 cows, I saw for the first time that he was limping pretty badly. We circled the places he had run, but could find no trace of blood. The shooter swore up and down that he had hit him twice in the head, but there was no blood, and only a limp. The best we could gather was either a leg injury from the crazed running, or a concussion/neurological issue from the bullet hits. We also knew he could be bleeding internally. Either way, we needed to put him down and out of his misery.
After about a 3 hour adventure, with the bull now safely enclosed, night enveloped us, and we scattered to make calls and come up with the next plan. I gave the owners the list of supplies they needed to gather in order to deal with the carcass. Then, we waited on S to arrive home, which happened shortly after. I filled him in on the details, he dressed and ran over, we contacted a friend for man-power, and all the guys re-grouped to deal with the situation. Since all they had was the 9mm pistol, they knew the heart or lung shot was out of the question, and that they had to get close to hit the brain on target. Then they discovered he was bleeding, though only lightly based on the trail they found, but no idea where from. They hoped the 4 of them could work together to put this guy out of his misery.
Over the next hour and half, 4 men tried in vain to corner this bull. Although he wasn’t acting totally normal, he wouldn’t let them get close enough, or hold still enough for the shot. After a while, the 2 cows circled around the bull, almost as though they were protecting him, and wouldn’t let the guys get anywhere near. That left only one option….a high-powered rifle for a distant shot into the torso. The guys scattered again to make calls, with everyone failing to find anybody (or anybody at home) with such a rifle.
Thus ended Part 1 of this saga. They were forced to leave the bull overnight, with the owner checking on him every few hours in case he died on his own. This morning, S was able to track down a big-time hunter buddy with good rifles and good aim, so Part 2 is scheduled to begin this evening. I’ll keep you posted. Of course, if it’s anything like those goats, it could be few days to see how this all turns out!