I’m having a good laugh this morning over cattle and their lowing. I know that Christmas has passed, nobody is singing “Away in a Manger” right now, so the whole question of lowing cattle is probably irrelevant. But it can still be funny, and funny is good in my humble opinion, especially for a cold, icy, winter morning.
And thus it was I laughed out loud when I came across a few pointed questions from a “classic” post by blogger Dave Burchett:
- What noise, exactly, were the cattle making when they started lowing?
- Was this normal cow talk?
- Did lowing just sound better than mooing in the lyric or is lowing a more spiritual and reverent cow sound?
He then goes on to ask a fourth question, wondering just what is wrong with him. You’re probably asking a similar question and directing it toward me.
What’s wrong with me? Why am I writing about cows, and why should anybody care?
Before I attempt to answer those questions, let me first share a little video clip — just in case you’d like to listen to a few cattle lowing.
Now, about those questions.
What’s wrong with me? Good question, and the only answer I can give is that I am a creative individual, one whose mind doesn’t just jump from one thing to another, but which makes gigantic leaps that bring together an odd assortment of things. (Remember my adventures with Monkey Mind during Inktober?)
Why am I writing about cows? Simple. I’m learning Dutch, as you know. I’ve been exploring all things Dutch — from music to breakfasts to animals. Yes, animals. As part of my learning I recently read a delightful little children’s book titled “Eet Mij”, which is “een informatiev boek over dieren en hun tanden” In other words, an informative book about animals and their teeth.
I learned a lot from this little book — like the fact that cows don’t have upper teeth, so they can’t bite. At best they can only nibble a bit at us.
So all the while I’m still musing about cows, I’m also browsing around to learn more about Dutch artists and who should I discover but Paulus Potter! And that brings me to the third and most important question.
Why should anybody care? The answer is simple. Paulus Potter painted cows. To be fair, he also painted a few other animals, but he’s known primarily for his paintings of koeien, and since koeien is a word I know, my mind was happy to embrace it and celebrate it in art. I do know a lot of animal words, by the way, but sadly, I can’t paint animals very well. My only attempt was an old gray mare that was part of an underpainting lesson.
Paulus Potter painted lovely cows and bulls. Perhaps his most famous work is De Stier, and now you’ve learned yet another Dutch word.
Potter obviously loved animals, and I’ll admit to having already fallen in love with his paintings. Just take a look at a few more of his paintings of cattle:
Of course, there’s always more to the story when it comes to art, and, indeed, there’s much more to see here than a few farmyard animals. The cow, in fact, became a symbol of Holland and its prosperity. Pastoral scenes of cows — as well as those of sheep — were idyllic looks at life, and I’ve even read that these paintings of cows, sheep, goats, and other dieren represented the closeness of the traditional family.
So painting cattle showed prosperity, peace, and patriotism as well as depicting happiness within the home.
The story doesn’t even end there.
Livestock paintings have been an important part of art in many different cultures, throughout many different times. And through it all, the cow has stood at the forefront, gently lowing, nibbling a bit, and grazing in the grass…”de hele dag door.”