Holy Indian Cow! and Chickens, Goats, Dogs, Cats in Bangalore

Like every other visitor to India, I am mesmerized by the sights and sounds and smells of the country.  Every day literally holds an amazing cornucopia of possibilities for what I will see as my wonderful driver Shiva shuttles me around town.  For the first month or so I always held my camera on my lap whenever I was in the car so I could snap pics of fun things I saw.  But now I have become complacent and have lost a bit of my edge as I feel less and less like a tourist lately…which I guess is a good thing!

This was the sweetest one-eyed dog EVER. I had the best time running around and playing with her.

Today I saw something that inspired me to finally write about the animals of Bangalore.  We were dropping off paperwork at a customs office because – halleluiah – our belongings have finally arrived from Barcelona!!  There was a cricket match taking place across the street and since I am now essentially “in” cricket (haha, yeah, I know…try not to laugh too hard) I stepped out of the car to check it out.  I walked up to the fence, watched the pitch, the batter hit it into the center of the field… almost hitting the COW that was napping right there in the middle of the game.  Okay, I appreciate the love for the cow here in India, I really do.  But that seems wrong.  I mean, the ball could essentially hurt the cow, right?  And a player could essentially run right into the cow by accident and hurt them both?  Wouldn’t it be smarter to simply ask the cow sweetly to take her nap elsewhere?  Or gently nudge her and make it moo-ve?  Someone needs to comment please and share some personal cow cricket reasoning with me because this one is beyond me.

A typical scene: cows on their own rummaging around the rubbish for a snack or two just like a stray dog or cat.

Cows are everywhere here.  There are “neighbourhood” cows that you’ll see every day, roaming free on the sidewalks and streets.  I remember once the neighbourhood cow by my old office was walking on the sidewalk a bit too slow for my liking, so I decided to pass her.  Well, she didn’t like that much because as I passed her she moo’d at me and nudged my hip with her nose! Haha  Girlfriend apparently owned the road 🙂

I still smile and practically get whiplash looking at the cows every day, I guess it will take a while for me to get over the thrill of seeing a cow just out and about.  I don’t actually remember seeing cows while I was living in Spain but I did see them all the time where I grew up in southern California because there was a dairy close by.  As with everything, cows in India are monumentally different in lots and lots of ways to their American or European sisters:

  • They are skinny as hell here.  The majority are skin and bones when you compare them to the livestock and dairy cows in the U.S. which are fed hay and grains to fatten them up and keep them as healthy as possible.  Here the cows eat the grass on the side of the road, veggies given by owners, temples and locals… and often times are seen picking through roadside garbage with the dogs looking for scraps of food to eat.  And I can’t imagine that they have the dexterity to select little morsels of food like a stray cat would, or even a dog for that matter.  So they must be ingesting bits of plastic and other unmentionables when they dig in for a snack.
  • Cows in India are sacred and loved .  I really don’t want to try to paraphrase and (excuse the pun) butcher the reasons for this and offend anyone, so here is a short, concise article that does it well: http://moourl.com/ve5ob
  • A cow is relatively street smart here.  Believe it or not, I have seen cows crossing the street, literally waiting with traffic for the light to change.  I am not suggesting that they are so clever that they are standing there, tapping their hoof impatiently and waiting for lights to turn from red to green.  But they do have a keen knack for sticking with traffic flow, not erratically jumping into oncoming traffic, and they seem to be totally oblivious to the constant horns blowing.

The other animal that dominates the streets of Bangalore is the dog.  In the past eight years living in Spain I saw a handful of stray dogs, maybe five or ten in total.  Yet here in Bangalore every street has at least a couple so I imagine there are tens of thousands of stray dogs running loose in the city today.  Our apartment, for example, has two resident stray dogs, Whitey and Blackie – yes, one is white and one is black! Haha  The security guys were not the most creative name givers but it works for them.  The dogs are very sweet but shy of new people.  Every morning they head out on adventures, returning home in the evenings to sleep outside our complex by the security cabin.

Personally I have not seen any aggressive or dangerous dogs but my friends assure me that there are some “mean suckers” out there and to be careful.  I read that 12 people are bitten by stray dogs every minute in Bangalore, which surprised the heck out of me.  That is an amazing figure.  And today while researching stray dogs I have sadly read the stories of infants and children who were attacked and mauled to deal by packs of strays…two in the past couple of weeks alone.  The civic body wants to file a petition in Supreme Court that would allow them to put to death 50 per cent of stray dogs and I can’t blame them after reading what I have today.  On the other hand, the dogs aren’t to blame – we are – and NGOs are seeking to find a more humane way to handle the problem, including sterilization, rabies shots, etc.

Regardless of the outcome, it is a really strange thing to see so many dogs every day.  In Spain and the U.S., stray cats are the problem and we’d see a half a dozen or so every day.  In some towns, there are cats everywhere and they generally steer clear of people, hunt mice or crabs at the beach for food and they generally aren’t that big of a problem.  Here in Bangalore, I didn’t see my first street cat until I had been here for almost six or seven weeks – which again show just how different things are here.

On any given day, while sitting on my terrace or while simply out running errands, I see chickens, dozens of cows, bullocks pulling carts, birds soaring through the sky, loud “devil” birds that wake me up each morning, squirrels jumping from tree to tree, goats, camels and, obviously, hundreds of dogs.  I’ve seen chickens sitting on a goat that was right next to a cow, bullocks pulling carts on the motorway, dogs and cows eating and picking through the same pile of rubbish on the side of the road…and now my favourite, the cow who was playing ‘umpire’ at the cricket game.

I never imagined that my daily life would offer up a way to co-exist with animals like this …I love it.

XOXO from Bangalore

© Angela Carson and Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011

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Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 32 countries on 4 continents, residing in 7 of them (currently Kuala Lumpur is my home). By day I'm a digital nomad and by night I'm a passionate storyteller. I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!
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6 Comments on “Holy Indian Cow! and Chickens, Goats, Dogs, Cats in Bangalore

  1. Maneka Gandhi and her brand of animal rights activism could be one reason for the proliferation of street dogs, another is utter callousness of people who abandon pets or let unsterilized pets roam about the streets.

  2. Hey Angela!
    Watch out for those dogs, India has a high incidence of rabies- dog bites being the most common form of transmission.

  3. Hi Angela,
    Love reading your blog!
    We are expats in Bangalore – but with 2 kids – 11 and 6, our experiences have been a bit different!! – its great reading yours!

    • Thanks so much, Helen! I just opened your blog and will sit down later today and read up on your adventures as well. I do imagine our experiences are different…when my daughter Alina was 6, my life was much different — I was even the Girl Scout troup leader back then. But now she is almost 16, I’m single and have made friends with some really fun locals…so life is never boring here 🙂

  4. Hahahahaha!! I have heard so much about the cows of India from people who visit India for the first time.. Having grown up here, they’ve never really been something outstanding for me. But if you were to go to some of the smaller towns of Chennai, I think you’d get to see some more amazing sights. 🙂 In Ambattur, where some of my family stays, for example, and in Perambur, where my great grandfather used to stay, there are cows that walk up to the house every morning and moo right outside the door. This is the cue for the lady of the house to bring it some food and a bucketful of water or diluted milk or buttermilk.. And I just have to say, Cows are mighty noisy drinkers!! 😀 😛
    As for cows playing cricket, I suggest you watch a movie called Iqbal sometime.. It’s a movie about a young man from a tiny village, who plays really good cricket and how he eventually fulfills his dream of playing for the country. 🙂
    A very fun-to-read post! 🙂 🙂

    • Okay, I am going to buy that DVD 🙂 I can’t believe what you are saying though about the pet cows and their morning breakfast moo-s!! haha Hysterical 🙂 My grandparents had a farm in Arkansas and we used to go in the summers and there were cows, chickets we collected eggs from every morning, potatoe fields…and mean ducks and geese that would attack us. Oh, and nasty ticks that latch on and suck your skin and you have to burn off…haha. Fun fun!

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