Thinking back to my 18-year-old self, I definitely don’t think I ever imagined hearing my two-year old daughter say, “Quick Mom, there’s a moo-cow in our yard.” (I probably never imagined having a two-year old but if I did).
Today was not the first time I have heard this so we both knew the drill. “In the front of the back?” “Front, in the yard.” “Is there just one?” “Yes”. I slid into some shoes and ran out to try and shoo him.
One lone black cow was munching grass on our front lawn. Meabh was grabbing her wellies to put on because she doesn’t like to miss any action but I told her to stand at the door and not come out. She’s smart enough to be scared of giant animals that would trample her in a second so she stayed put for a change.
I shooed this one out my open (and hence ineffectual gate) and saw the rest of them huddled in the back around the swing set. There was probably about 10 more cows and 3 or 4 calves. Great. They poop everywhere and get all frantic trying to run away from me so they crash through hedges and trample bushes and could easily get in a kerfuffle (technical farming term) and break the swing set. I spent a few minutes running around the house trying to round them up and drive them towards the gate while waving a branch, clapping, yelling and laughing at myself because there is no way for this not to be ridiculous. It can be more ridiculous though – me pregnant cows or me at 5 am chasing horses out of the yard in my pajamas before they wake up AirBnB guests next door in our cottage.
Now everyone around here has a gate across their driveway for just this purpose. But I am too lazy to open and close it every time I drive anywhere so I just wait until I see cows or horses coming up the road and then run out and close it. This is proven NOT to work so after a few weeks of good intentions and no cattle being around, I get lazy and leave the gate open again.
Most houses in rural Ireland have similar gates for when farmers are driving cows or sheep in the road from one field to the next or to the barn. It is the responsibility of the farmer to make sure his animals don’t go into your yard and to keep them under control – everywhere but here.
It’s the complete Wild West here with horses and cows (and a donkey) roaming freely all over common fields without fences. They wander along the banks, down to the beach, up by the graveyard and around the point. I’ve been followed by a cow onto the beach and into the ocean when I was taking a swim.
The animals follow the grass so if they get wind of an open field, they dash in to eat and do not want to move once they are there. If the kids see the horses coming around the bend from our sitting room window, they know to shout out or run out and close the gate.
These free range and tame horses are every visitors highlight to the area because it is so unique. Irish people think its crazy that there’s no fences and they stand in the road and every other nationality love seeing the horses close-up. While it can be a pain and they can cause damage (a loose horse ran through my husband’s windshield at 5:30 am on his way to work one day), I can think of a lot worse neighbor problems to be having and the farmer’s around here are never going to change no matter how many problems they cause around the place.
My neighbor complained to one farmer in the pub last year about a couple of his wild horses trashing her garden and he just shrugged and replied “Girleen that’s what your gate’s for.”