The Secret Life Of Cows, by Rosamund Young
Although I thought that my own personal interest in the psychology of animals was an unusual one, I have found that it is one that is shared by at least a few of my friends as well, as the topic came up when we were all reflecting on the personality of pets as well as other animals. This book is designed for someone who is likely interested in farming or has some experience with farm animals and there is likely some sort of worldview relating to farming that the author is trying to promote, but the fact that the book talks about the personality of a host of cattle that the farmer has had over the course of many years is sufficient reason to enjoy this particular book. And although I do not know my own family’s cattle as well as the author knows hers, I can say that at least from my own experience there is a wide variety in terms of the personality of animals and they indeed act according to a strong sense of internal logic and consistency that it is wise to remember, for the ways of cows (and other animals) are distinct from human ways but no less logical for all that.
This book is less than 150 pages long and it not only talks about the personality of cows but also that of other farm animals as well that the author is familiar with. And this book is not divided into chapters but rather a large amount of small sections that flow nicely from one to another. The author talks about her farming experiences as well as the sort of animal behavior that needs investigation. She talks about names for animals and how they grieve the death of their relatives. She talks about different kinds of mooing and praises the decision-making ability of the animals she has been with. There are discussions of the preferences of animals as well as the ways that cows remember and appreciate eye contact. There is a discussion of difficult calvings as well as discussiosn on grooming and milking. The author then discusses other animals as well as hens and some notes on the self-medication that animals do by eating various types of plants. At the end of the book the author gives twenty things that the reader ought to know about cows, hens, sheep, and pigs before discussing a nest farm and providing a bibliography.
I’m not sure what this author refers to as the secret life of cows. After all, the emotional life of cows and other animals is not difficult to discover if one is paying attention. To be sure, not everyone pays to the emotional lives of other people, much less other animals, but at least when one is dealing with mammals it is extremely easy to recognize the thought processes of animals and to recognize that they act according to sound instinct as well as reasonably well-programmed logic. Again, this should only be a surprise if someone is not aware of the way that animals operate, and perhaps most people have not pondered the way animals have recognizable personalities that are easy to work with. Admittedly, though, it is something that I have seen as someone who has long lived around a lot of animals, and so reading this book was pleasing to me but not something I thought of as particularly revolutionary or a big deal. It is perhaps a big deal for some people but those people would likely not be reading a book on cows and their emotional lives, it should be noted.