Members of ISCOWP, ISKCON’s cow protection branch, travelled the 1,456 miles from West Virgina to Texas this August to add three new Brahman calves to their herd.
No, Brahman cows are not bovines of especially high birth who bathe three times daily and wear sacred threads. But close – they were originally exported from India to the rest of the world, and are the poster-child sacred cows of Hinduism. Immediately recognizable, a Brahman cow is distinguished by a large distinctive hump on its shoulders and a loose flap of skin hanging from its neck.
ISCOWP hope that the Brahmans will rejuvenate their mostly middle-aged herd and provide an ox team that can work in the hot weather. “The Brahman breed’s short, glossy coat reflects much of the sun’s rays,” says Laksmi devi, daughter of ISCOWP founder Balabhadra Dasa. “And their abundance of loose skin increases the body surface area exposed to cooling, making them uniquely able to withstand extreme temperatures.”
She adds that Brahmans are just adaptable to cold: “During harsh winters, their loose skin contracts, and they grow a protective covering of long, coarse hair beneath which a dense, downy, fur-like undercoat can be found.”
Laksmi Devi and Balabhadra purchased two Brahman bull calves and one female calf from registered breeder William Fenn. ISCOWP chose the Fenn family as they develop a personal relationship with their animals, thus standing out amongst other breeders.
The Fenn family have been breeding Brahmana cows for three generations. “They were great hosts and very friendly,” Laksmi says. “It was a great pleasure meeting them and spending a day with them and their cows.” These included Oswald, father of the calves and son of the creatively named “Bullzilla.”
While Hungary’s New Vraja Dhama farm recently acquired a Brahman bull calf, this will be the first time a North American cow protection program has brought Brahmans into a cold climate.
“Bringing the calves to our farm was time sensitive,” says Laksmi. “We wanted them to come in the warmest season so they can have a good chance to acclimatize gradually as the weather gets colder.”
The calves have recently met the rest of the herd, and seem to be adjusting well. “The boys Sri and Priya sure love to lick my arms and neck, and Priya keeps trying to eat my hair,” Laksmi laughs.
She explains that Brahmans require much patience and a gradual approach to getting to know them. “As a breed, they are standoffish and shy, but once they know and love you, they love receiving attention,” she says. “The boys very quickly let us touch, rub and pet them. Things are moving slow with Amrita, but she is letting us touch her and she likes smelling us. One trick is to let them come to you on their own speed. They will come because they are curious; you just have to have patience.”