Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day -- Wild Charolais Cattle of Venezuela
I find a lot of inspiration for writing in photographs, and Wikimedia Commons, one of my favorite sites for free-use pictures, features a "Picture of the Day"--a variety of subjects, but always stunning photography. I decided to let these pictures inspire some of my posts.
The photo, above, is captioned "Feral Charolais bull at 4600 meters above sea level, in Sierra Nevada de Mérida, Venezuela." It's a beautiful picture, but it was also interesting to learn that there are actually feral cattle somewhere. I'd heard of wild horses, burros, and goats, but I always thought cattle were completely domesticated. How would an animal that I always pictured as being a bit slow and lumbering escape the predator animals roaming the wild? Wolves? Mountain lions? I had to investigate.
My trusty research tool, Wikipedia, was my next stop. I learned a bit about Charolais cattle, a large breed of beef cattle from France, but the only thing offered about the wild ones was this line: "In Sierra Nevada de Mérida, Venezuela, following the rural flight of farmers, many Charolais cattle were abandoned; they have survived in the wild feeding on Espeletia schultzii, a high altitude shrub." The photo from Wikimedia Commons was there to illustrate.
Well, that told me how they got there. Sounds like the farmers fell on hard times, leaving their livestock to fend for themselves. Apparently, they have found an acceptable food source. But how do the wild Charolais cattle avoid predation? The cattle item wasn't the right place to look, so I searched "predator species of Venezuela". Turns out the two most formidable predators in Venezuela are the jaguar and the crocodile. The jaguar ranges over different areas, but vastly prefers rain forest, and crocodiles are aquatic species--not much of a threat on the mountaintops. I searched to find out if there were wolves in Venezuela, but it looks like the only wolf in the entire continent of South America is the maned wolf, which is actually a large fox. Except for having to eat scrubby mountain shrubs, it looks like those cows have it made.
I learned something else when I was searching "wild cattle". There are actually feral cattle right here in the United States. A lot of ranchers graze their cattle on federal lands, and sometimes those cows get loose and roam about. I found an item about cows running wild in Chino Hills State Park, in California, and scaring hikers. Who knew we would learn all this just from looking at the Picture of the Day?
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Image Credit » http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charolais_cattle,_Sierra_Nevada,_Venezuela.jpg