06 December 2009

cows that I have known....

so……they’re big on cattle here in the Sudan.

they’re not big on ‘systems” though, or “structure” or “boundaries”…..or “branding” for that matter….so I’m really not sure how they can tell whose cow is whose….but apparently they can.

I imagine it’s something along the lines of “in America, you would know which dog is yours, so why couldn’t you tell which cow”; as well as the fact that it would be extremely bad form to lay claim to someone else’s cow….

regardless, somehow they do tell them apart…..and cows are money....and so the cows have the run of the place….as you can see below….

this was actually in Nairobi, taken out of a car window - my first "major bovine incident"...

the view out my back window over coffee…..

and the side yard around evening….

a man and his cow….

This bunch was grazing near the river at Old Fangak International Airport (O.F.I.A) ….and near the river is fine, but it becomes an issue when they are grazing on the airstrip when a plane is landing…..which is every time a plane is landing…..so, the pilots usually have to make 2 or 3 passes to scatter them/alert the locals to “please move your cows….or possibly your goats”….

A side note: so, O.F.I.A. is on the other side of the river from the village itself, about a 5 minute boat ride away….and, schedules being mostly a theoretical concept in the Sudan, it doesn’t behoove one to sit around in an open field on a 100 degree day waiting for a plane that may not be there for 2 hrs, if at all…or to be surprised when you hear a plane landing that you had no knowledge of….so, the built-in delay of in-flight cattle clearing is kind of nice, as when you do hear/see the plane, you know “ahhh, we’ve got at least 15 minutes to jump in the boat & get there…

unlike the AK, where air traffic overhead (even in the bush) is a relatively common, everyday occurrence; here in lovely downtown Fangak if you hear any plane, you know it will be landing at O.F.I.A, as there is absolutely no other possible reason it would be passing through the airspace – 95% of the time, that area is occupied by birds and the moon only….

and when you have one of the two boats in Old Fangak with a motor, and capable of ferrying people/freight from O.F.I.A. to the village….and the driver of the other boat (owned/operated by the Carter Centre) lives across the river from where the boat itself is kept, so if he happens to not actually be in town at the moment….it’s usually you & Stephen “the Man” Gatkose jumping in the boat and getting there….knowing you have time to finish your coffee, because the pilot will have to scatter a cow or three….

the collar means it's "special"....which could mean it's someone's cow you are taking care of....or it's breeding...or it's going to be sold...or just about anything....definitions are a hazy concept in Nuar (the local language, and name of the local tribe...pronounced "noo-air")...regardless, any woman likes a bit of jewelry & flash, no?

a side note: for just about every cow you see, you'll see a lil' white bird (from the Egret clan) following it around, enjoying the insect smörgåsbord that accompanies it's four-legged friend...the aviary scientists have creatively named this bird "Cattle Egret"...regardless, it's a quite endearing sight...

getting it's drink on....

....and not skittish about it

so, these two fine examples were lazing about the edge of the market on a hot afternoon, and I couldn't resist the urge to snap a pic....and in Old Fangak, cameras are still quite the exotic, magical item, so if you're not very surreptitious about usage, you're likely to get a local clamoring to be in the shot....young, old, man, woman - they have no fear of their souls being stolen, they wanna be on camera, dammit....which resulted in the below shot, one of my favorites of the entire scene so far.....

the follow-up is that after taking the picture, you must show it to the subject (easily/instantly done in these digital days), so they can see themselves....and when these two young ladies who had scampered into the frame looked at the picture and realized that they were featured next to COWS.....the shrieks & giggles of mortification needed no translating....

down by the river, as a trading boat comes into town….which leads us again to boats….

A better shot in which to appreciate the overloaded…..

…..and underpowered craft (that’s a 75 hp outboard motor strapped onto that behemoth)…

....and the majority(by a LARGE margin) of the trading/shipping boats here in the Sudan follow this same model…..but we’ll get into that nuttiness another time…..it’s late, I’m a good kind of tired….and there’s a side of beef lowing about 100 yds away….


  1. These pics blow my mind. I can't imagine how exciting/scary it would be to see these animals in person. Multiply how excited/scared I was when I saw a oppossum in my yard by 1000 at least.

  2. Don't know how else to get a hold of you.

    Vic Chestnutt died. Suicide attempt, lead to a coma, lead to death.

    Sorry, D.