Cow Week: Bull gores man, follows him until certain he is dead

Editorial note — Cow Week is a tongue-in-cheek look at risk analysis and why we fear the things we fear. It is inspired by the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, the popularity of which is largely driven by the public's fascination with and fear of sharks. Turns out, cows kill more people every year than sharks do. Each day, I will post about a cow-related death, and add to it some information about the bigger picture.

Some cow-related deaths are accidental, or at least understandable. When humans and animals live and work in close proximity, it's not surprising that humans sometimes do things that startle or scare the animals. And when 500-pound animals are scared, bad things can happen.

Other times, though, it really seems like the cows are out to get us. Take this story, related in the July 31st issue of The Times of India. Bhoop Narayan Prajapati, a 65-year-old resident of Deori Township in the Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh, was gored by a bull and later died of his wounds. But, the death turns out to be the culmination of a months-long feud between Prajapati and the bull, centered around Prajapati's attempts to get the bull to stop sitting in front of the door to his house.

Prajapati threw a cup of hot water at the bull one morning. The next day, the bull came back and gored him. But that wasn't quite enough.

Much to people's surprise, the bull reached the hospital following Prajapati. Deepak Chourasia, a town-dweller, said that when the mortal remains of the old man were being consigned to flames the bull again sprang a surprise by arriving at the crematorium.

There is a minor history between Prajapati and the bull. Six month ago, the bull had attacked the old man after he hit the animal with a stick. Prajapati was at that time admitted to a hospital where he stayed for more than a month due to leg injury, Deori police station inspector R P Sharma told TOI.

Yesterday, I told you about how cows kill more people every year than sharks, even though sharks are (by far) the more-feared species. Today, let's look at this from the shark's perspective. Turns out, sharks are actually threatened ... by us. Yes, they have pointy teeth, but we have harpoons and nets.

In a 2010 article for Our Amazing Planet, Charles Q. Choi reported that as many as 1/3 of all shark and ray species in the world are at risk of dying out. Most of the deaths are accidental. Sharks can simply end up caught in nets meant for other animals. But there's also a thriving trade in shark fins and plenty of money to be made in allowing fishermen to hunt sharks for sport. Overall, humans intentionally kill upwards of 73 million sharks a year, according to a 2009 New York Times editorial.

Read the rest of the Times of India cow death story
Read Charles Q. Choi's piece on the risk of shark extinction
Read the New York Times editorial on the death of sharks
Read a 2007 interview with Jean-Michel Cousteau on the threat to sharks and how to save them.

Cow Kills Irish Pensioner

Cow-related death story via Alston D'Silva

Image: Cows, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from jelles's photostream


  1. I must point out that bycatch is hardly accidental. It is a conscious and greedy decision to fish the easy and more profitable way without regard to consequences.  (Kinda like Wall Street).

    1. Not necessarily. For example the switch to dolphin safe tuna fishing methods has resulted in a massive uptick in bycatch in that industry, particularly involving sharks. Its also been worse for the tuna, and that change was dictated by laws and press. Likewise the tendency to stick to bycatch heavy fishing methods in a lot of fisheries is driven more by tradition and the prohibitive cost of refitting a boat with new equipment. The way most quota systems/fishing limits work these days bycatch can’t really be sold either. So even when you catch usable fish they end up dumped, fisherman don’t like this. Its wasted effort, and wasted money. 

  2. I have a Jersey bull that is (or perhaps I should say *appears to be*) a fairly gentle and sweet-tempered creature. Comes up and gets his head scratched and licks you, and so on. But I’ve also been in the pasture with him and heard him suddenly come running at me when my back was turned. When I turned suddenly he stopped and was all like ‘who, me? nothing going on here’. 
    So I don’t turn my back on him any more. 
    Father of a friend of mine (also a farmer) likewise had a bull sneak up on him while he was mending a fence, and the bull stuck a horn in him and threw him over the fence. But at least he lived to tell the tale.

    1. They don’t always know who/what you are, and they’re pretty defensive. The strange thing is they may even mean to be defending the you they know from the you that spooks them.

    2. It’s well known on ranches and farms that there is nothing more unpredictable than a Jersey bull

  3. Some thieves hit the tool shed on my brother’s dairy farm several years ago and unwisely tried to cut across a corral containing a bull as they made their getaway. My brother recovered most of the tools from where they were scattered as the thieves ran for their lives. The bull didn’t catch them, though.

  4. Really, what point is trying to be made here?

    That our fear and current of sharks is totally mispresented because statistically more people are killed by cows/donkeys/telephone boxes than sharks each year?

    Of course this is the case, if only because humans deal with these elements daily so its probably that over the course of a year strange, bizarre and  cruel deaths are bound to occur when interacting with these usually commonplace/harmless objects or animals.
    The fact is, sharks are predators, hidden, in water, that eat people. That’s always going to be terrifying.

    Making light of these bizarre facts and tragedies and comparing the numbers seems to be a crude way of introducing a new perspective on Sharks.

    1. Real peoples’ deaths shouldn’t be trivialized or disrespected by joking about them. The subject is really a sacred cow, if you will.

  5. I photograph in the ring for a rodeo and have a lot of first hand experience with angry bulls.
    I assure you that these cattle are wild animals capable of great violence which is often intentional. Sure some cattle are mild-mannered but some are also what I would describe as at least very aggressive.
    Just last week I was nearly run down by a young half ton bull that broke off from three bull fighters and ran all the way across the ring to get me personally. Had I not made it to the fence in time I doubt I’d be able to type right now. These animals rarely hit you once but stay on top of you and keep at it.

          1. They got them too?

            Alert, Alert, Math person needed to estimate the ratio of humans to cattle in Heaven based on estimated number of dead in recorded history. I’m throwing down a guess of 11:1 favouring cattle. There’s BBQ in Heaven! But then where do they go?

          2. If we’re assuming that there is such a thing as heaven then surely we have to assume that nothing has to suffer for the sake of a BBQ in heaven – if we’re assuming it’s a true utopia, of course.

            Meat, as with all food, is simply created from combining atoms in gods sweaty palm. His sushi is expertly rolled, but his ice cream is a bit runny.

          3. Valinor: so undying that the leaves don’t even fall. But there are hunters. WTF, Tolkien?

  6. I might point out that cows don’t eat people, sharks will eat anything, including swimmers, surfers and boaters out for a lovely day on the water.

    What terrifies people is the thought of being out of their element, in the water where they have to swim or drown, while trying not to be something’s lunch.

    1.  I don’t think sharks eat people. Typical shark attack is shark swims up, takes a bite and swims away. Person either gets to shore with severe injuries or drowns.

      It’s like the shark is swimming along and thinks “Hey, weird splashy noises. I think I’ll investigate. Kinda smells funny, not prey at all, though those are some quite interesting electrical signals coming from it. I think I’ll have a little bite to see what’s up. Whoa, it’s a big weird alien thing. I better get out of here.”

      1. Right. It’s known as a “test bite”, and is the reason for most shark “attacks”, which are really more like investigations by the shark. Nonetheless, it’s no fun for the human.

        1. Although, I cannot attest to the bite…I got the bump… that thing they do when they bump you hard with their noses to see if you’ll be any good to eat.

          It was ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING!!! All I can say is thank God it bumped my bony ribs instead of my chunky thigh–or I might not be here to type about it.

      2. or “man that seal looking thing tasted awful, like a mix of pollution and Doritos bags”

        On a side note, the next time I eat beef I’ll feel a little better knowing I made the world a safer place for farmers.  1 cow down, many more to go.

      3. Good observation. Sharks haven’t survived 400 million years waiting for us to evolve, invent wetsuits and go scuba-diving. They eat fish and marine mammals (large sharks and manta rays are plankton-feeders).

      1. Well of course… It’s a perfectly valid motive, that I’ll keep in mind next time I’m in Cabo San Lucas, face to face with a hammerhead and I’ve dropped my bang stick to the ocean floor…

        The sharks are in it with the cows… And then it tears off a chunk

    1. “humans intentionally kill upwards of 73 million sharks a year, according to a 2009 New York Times editorial.”

      In Canada, 650 million [cows] are killed annually [wikipedia:slaughterhouses].  yes i just cited wikipedia, but they also have a source.  i’m sure it’s similar in the US

      1. That’s 20 cows per person, per year. Is Canada a really big beef exporter, or does the average Canadian eat 31 pounds of beef per day?

  7. Disrespecting a cow in India he is lucky he didn’t have a marauding mob to deal with. In 1893 there were riots by the cow protection movement protesting against the slaughter of cattle by the British in India.
    You can fucking dis fucking sharks and no-one will fucking care.

  8. I gotta say, in the context of this week’s theme, death by bull seems like cheating.

    Who doesn’t know bulls are dangerous?   

    It seems like I’ve seen innumerable childhood-on-a-farm movies where the kids cut across the bull pasture, and it’s a scary moment, because they realize — they could get killed by the bull.  

    From the running of the bulls, to bullfighters getting gored, to rodeos — I don’t think anybody was under the impression a bull is not a deadly creature.

    Yesterday’s, where it was a cow — and in fact, a calf — was more incongruous.

  9. “We are going to write a letter to the civic body to put this bull in a government shelter,” the inspector added.

    I’d like to see that letter be wrote.

    1. I’d like to see that letter be wrote.

      Now, I can’t stop singing:
      I bet this song never would have been wrote
      If the pretty girl hadda been milking her goat
      But the goat wasn’t feeling well anyhow
      So the pretty girl was milking her cow.

      1. I didn’t get that and didn’t get that and didn’t get that and then was like “that’s not how I meant that”.

        Curse you English and your vile ambiguity!

  10. I once drove  amongst a herd of  cows free ranging in Pie Town NM.  I thought it was cool so I got out of my car and took pictures and moo-ed at them.  Let me tell you that it is damn scary when 40 cows moo back in unison and start walking towards you with a hungry look in their eyes.

  11. I continue to think this is a silly comparison, and, worse, promotes something close to misinformation. The frequency of cow-related deaths as opposed to sharks is entirely explained by our frequent close proximity to cows, not the fact that they’re more dangerous or more deserving of fear. The fact that “cows kill more people every year than sharks do” is an incomplete statistic, and can’t inform a re-assessment of risk. On a one-on-one basis on any given day, you should be more afraid of the carnivore with sharp teeth than the (usually) docile plant-eater.

    Yes, we should save the sharks, etc. etc., and not villainize any animal for their natural behavior. But come on, present the facts with some appropriate context.

    Edit: To practice what I preach and give some context to my griping, there are 97.8 million cows in the U.S. as of July 2012, according the the USDA. That number is actually shrinking due to the drought. Anyway, that’s 97.8 million(!) cows that a whole profession of people is interacting with every single day. So no, I’m not surprised there are some deaths, statistically, and I don’t think that should lead people to re-evaluate their fear of large carnivorous fish. There have to be some ways to combat stigmas that don’t rely on this illogical comparison.

    1. Most sharks are carnivores–large plankton-eaters like whale sharks aren’t.

      But the carnivorous variety feed on fish and marine mammals like seals. Attacks on humans are de facto mistakes and since sharks have keen sensing apparatus to discern their prey, are also rare.

      You’re correct that it’s an incomplete statistic, but I believe that Dr Koerth-Baker is trying to make a point using irony: “Shark Week” seems to convince people that everytime I put on a wetsuit, I’m doomed.

      And you’re also correct when you say “we should save the sharks”–the problem is the economic rise of China, with its attendant personal wealth making it possible for more people to purchase shark fin. This has a knock-on effect as those who fish our seas snare sharks solely for their fins, wreaking havoc on oceanic ecosystems.

      I’m an omnivore myself and enjoy sustainable seafood, but if sharks are removed from the picture, fishing stocks will plummet. As much of the world relies on fish as a primary protein source, this will exacerbate world hunger. This situation is why the entire US West Coast has banned shark fins entirely.

      If you’re scared of sharks, don’t enter bodies of salt-water. And if you’re scared of cows/bulls/steers, stay out of the pasture!

    1. colloquially all bovine cattle can be (and are) called “cows”.  colloquially all bulls are cows but not all cows are bulls.

      1. Not where I’m from mate. I have read this whole thread in utter disbelief until one David Schwan made this point.

        I don’t have any fear of cows. Bulls are a very different thing indeed.

  12. Here’s the problem: shark fin is an expensive commodity seen as desirable by some humans. Westerners like me know it’s tasteless cartilage with a high mercury content. But many people of Chinese descent view shark fin as something they can serve to their guests at a banquet (usually in the form of soup) as a gesture of respect. Not because of the taste, but because it’s expensive.

    Which nation has become wealthier in the last 20 years and thus has a larger population able to purchase what they desire? Yes, it’s China (I live in Hong Kong so I’ve had a firsthand view of the changes).

    The apex-predator in oceanic ecosystems for 400 million years is the shark (in its myriad species). It hasn’t had to evolve because…it’s already there. And when you remove the apex-predator from an ecosystem, what happens?

    Disaster. Add in overfishing and hope everyone likes the taste of jellyfish because that’s all that will be left. Not to mention the barbaric practice of finning, where the shark is hauled aboard, has its fins sliced off and is then thrown back in the water to drown. Why? No one wants anything but the fins, and as more Chinese can afford them, fisherman across the globe see the value of this cash “crop.”

    In July 2011, California governer Gov. Jerry Brown signed Bill AB376: banning the sale, trade and possession of shark fins to protect the world’s dwindling shark population. California, along with Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and Guam, now have similar legislation, making shark-fin trade across the US West Coast illegal. Shark sanctuaries have been established in countries including Israel, Egypt, the Bahamas, Honduras and the Maldives. People are realizing that live sharks are more valuable than dead ones, as scuba-divers enjoy shark-dives (yes I am and yes I have–it’s not some caged-up Discovery Channel experience, it’s simply observing another marine species in its natural habitat, which is what diving is about).

    A website with a lot of shark-friendly info:

    Eat fish, eat beef, eat vegan…just leave the sharks in the sea.

    PS: massive bovine creatures with horns in their natural environment, no thanks!

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