Their Survival May Change How You Think About Cows

Atavist explores how 3 of them swept out to sea in a hurricane somehow lived
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2022 6:30 AM CST
Their Survival May Change How You Think About Cows
One of the Cedar Island hurricane survivors.   (YouTube/Today )

Cows can swim, of course, as anyone who has seen a Western or read about cattle drives can attest. But swimming across a river or calm water is one thing. It's "quite another to swim through a hurricane," writes JB MacKinnon at the Atavist. His story digs into the remarkable tale of three cows swept out to sea from North Carolina's Cedar Island in a 2019 hurricane and found, much to everyone's surprise, weeks later at Cape Lookout National Seashore in the Outer Banks. Most stories peg the distance they swam at about 4 miles, but MacKinnon talks to a USGS oceanographer who estimates that, given the craziness of the storm, they likely swam between 28 and 40 miles before making land. "It just renewed my faith that there are good things in life," a local tells MacKinnon. "You know, a little sign that we'll be OK, we'll get through this and go on."

The cows are part of a larger feral herd that has long roamed Cedar Island, along with wild horses. The storm surge swept away and drowned 28 of the horses and probably up to 20 cows. The three castaways were later brought back to the island and reunited with four other survivors. MacKinnon's story, though, goes beyond the particulars of the survival tale and digs into "cow psychology." In general, they're likely much smarter and heartier than most people would think—and far more so as "mavericks" (the technical name for wild cattle). The narrative raises what MacKinnon sees as the "uncomfortable possibility" that "these animals that most of us readily eat may have made it through the storm by drawing on the same internal resources that humans do in extreme circumstances." That is, they have "a fierce desire to live—one strong enough to sustain hour upon hour of mortal struggle." (Read the full story.)

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