Happy Easter

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I hope everyone who wanted one had a good Easter. Hungry the Cow sure did, and he wants to tell you all, “eat mor bunnie.”

Now, can any of our readers explain why Hungry the Cow is eating this rabbit? Double bonus if you can identify the journal and paper that this unmodified photo is associated with.

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Happy Easter from De Rerum Natura on April 11, 2004 6:31 PM

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The Panda's Thumb is dedicated to explaining the theory of evolution, critiquing the claims of the anti-evolution movement, and defending the integrity of science and science education in America and around the world. WARNING: Yesterday's Mad Cow link ... Read More


Could it be that the cow has a mineral deficiency that caused him to develop an aversion to eating more familiar foods and ate the rabbit as a means of testing out new food sources?

Now I know why the easter bunny skipped our residence. And all the time I thought it was because of something WE did wrong.

I tried to cheat and look on google, but all I got was a site chuckling at their referrals list which told them someone searching google for cows eating rabbits had been referred to their site.

Cow eats chicken

Farmer says his cow eats chickens

Farmers in a Serbian village claim a cow has been eating their chickens.

Carnivorous cow killed

Never turn your back on these killing machines.

Carnivorous cow killed

GOBABIS, Namibia – The owner of a cow which recently ate a newly-born goat kid has killed the animal, saying he could not come to terms with a herbivorous mammal that behaved in such a manner.

Told you so

CARNIVOROUS COW A Holstein cow in the village of Dorfac, central Iran, butchered a seven-month-old baby and ate it. The mother, who couldn’t find the baby anywhere, rushed out to the cowshed, where she witnessed the cow eating the remains of her child. Angry villagers killed the cow and burnt it. Iran (newspaper), Aug 1997.

It’s a new PETA ad calling for the extermination of cows.

Well, googling “cow eating a rabbit”> turns up this page with a similar photo. I’m not certain it’s the same cow, but the idea is the same.

The photo on that page is credited to Michiel Wallis de Vries, who apparently is a Dutch biologist. The fourth search result on his name is this May 2002 issue (PDF) of vakblad NATUURBEHEER.

Do I get a cookie?

Is it the end times yet?

mithras wrote: I’m not certain it’s the same cow, but the idea is the same.

mithras, I can confirm this is the same cow. (I remember him from a few late evenings at some of the local establishments.)


Yeap that is the same cow. I’d seen that other picture before, but I hadn’t made the connection. Now you know the biologist, can you find his paper that is connected to Hungry the Cow?


Don’t leave us hanging…what is the reason the cow eats the rabbit? (An old rancher told me about the mineral deficiency thing but I always wondered if it was true.)

The answer is in the paper. I’m not going to confirm any hypotheses yet, to give someone impetus to find the actual paper it is connected. Mithras found the paper’s author; now it’s time for someone to find the paper.

I recall reading that squirrels will cannibalize the bones of their fallen fellows for the calcium.

I’m guessing that the cows are doing opportunistic foraging on rabbit carcasses.

Wallis de Vries, M.F. 1996. Nutritional limitations of free-ranging cattle: the importance of habitat quality. Journal of Applied Ecology 33: 688-702.

In addition to the rabbits themselves, it looks as if they also ate:

-Rabbit poo

-Small pieces of plastic

Do I win Rufus?

Hungry is eating that rabbit corpse for its precious bones, which will give Hungry a much needed phosphorus boost.

Now can anyone explain why this animal is doing what its doing. {on second thought please don’t}

A winner of the igNobel prize another Dutch contribution :-)

I _knew_ I had seen the photo somewhere before. I saw de Vries (or one of his co-workers) talk on this sort of thing, oh must be, twelve years ago at a meeting of the Ungulate Research Group of the Mammal Society.

God Fearing Atheist wins the bonus.

Joe Carter was right. The cows in the study were suffering from nutritional deficiency because they lived on over grazed land. Many of them licked or ate animal bones, presumably for the mineral content. One cow was observed on two occasions to eat an entire rabbit carcass that it had scavenged. This behavior, nutrient deficiency leading to scavenging carrion, is probably one of the intermediate steps leading from herbivory to carnivory.

The mallard in Jason Mallory’s link is doing what male mallards do, screw anything that looks remotely like a mate. Their standards are very low. (Cue off color joke.)

As an after-the-correct-answer alternate - cows were, for some time, fed with commercial feed which contained rendered animal offal, including sheep brains. Along with causing Mad Cow, this would also seem to have given rise to at least occasional cannibilistic bovines. Yikes!

I remember a report a few years ago of fossil evidence being found suggesting giant meat-eating kangaroos once hopped about the outback.

There is nothing at all strange when you hear of cattle eating some kind of meat or another animal. What is strange to me is that so many farmers and even a great many scientists will tell you it doesn’t or would never happen! For some odd reason they don’t want to talk about it and will always try to make you believe that under no circumstances will a cow eat any kind of meat.

I make this statement because I started researching the complete subject of herbivores sometimes eating some form of meat. I found it is very common and it happens for a variety of reasons. It is true that these animals will do this due to a lack of any number of nutritional needs which they may not be getting. There is another reason scientists have explained to me that makes even more sense.

All animals are opportunistic in many areas of their lives and many of these animals will simply take advantage of an easy meal. Even though their digestive system is not ideal for meat digestion, they can easily tolerate much more than we might think they could. I met a man in the course of my research who invited me to his place and he would only say that I would have trouble believing my own eyes when he introduced me to his animals.

I went and he was right because I did find his animals to be truly amazing. He had horses, donkeys, Llamas, cows, sheep, goats and two whitetailed deer. I saw every one of these animals eat other animals and none of his animals would eat anything that was already dead. Every single animal would only eat something it had killed.

He had a special feeding device he had made that was circular and was about 4 feet in diameter and it had plexiglass going around it. It was about 14 inches deep. He would put 25 to 30 live mice in the enclosure and the 2 sheep, 3 goats and the 2 Llamas would gobble as many of them as they could.

His 2 horses and 2 donkeys ate two rats each and one rabbit each out of the same feeder device. On my second visit I saw four cows kill and devour a live large size goat as if they were working as a team. On this same visit I watched the 2 deer eat two mice, 3 flopping bluegill fish and two baby chicks.

In every case the farm animals were voracious about catching, killing and eating their kills. Some of it was a little hard for me to watch since I tend to have a soft spot for all animals. This fellow told me he feeds this way three times per week and the rest of the time his animals eat what we would feel was their normal diet. Hay, grain and special feed were the normal food items. He said the horses, cows and donkeys regularly ate lab rats and rabbits and that once, the two horses killed and ate a veal calf.

After seeing this exhibition I had to ask him how it all got started and why he continues the practice. He explained that he once saw his horses kill and eat a groundhog in the field they were in. The two donkeys did the same thing with a dog that was bothering them. He found his four cows one day eating a small fawn in their pasture. All of this had made him wonder and he bought some mice just to see if the sheep, goats, Llamas and deer would attempt to eat them. When they did he was convinced that all of his animals would like to have meat in their diet. Now, he raises his own feeder mice, rabbits and rats. All of his animals are in the best of health and none of them are ever aggressive toward humans.

I would appreciate getting email from anyone who has TRUE stories or information about any herbivore eating meat. My research is far from finished and I can use all I can get. Feel free to send email to [Enable javascript to see this email address.].

I thank you!

Various (unconfirmed) reports recently of hippos killing and eating cows in Kaffa province, Ethiopia. Similar behaviour has been reported with elephants, according to my children who know how gullible I am.

Vaguely recall seeing a paper years ago that claimed that in the past certain kinds of elephants (gomphotheres, maybe) were omnivorous, although whether they were opportunist scavengers or more active predators wasn’t spelled out.

It’s annoying me that I can’t locate the reference.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on April 11, 2004 2:51 PM.

The Privileged Planet Part 2: The failure of the ‘Design Inference’ was the previous entry in this blog.

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