Cow swaps farm life for freedom roaming with bison
A Polish cow has surprised biologists after turning its back on domestication and taking up with a herd of bison living in the wilds of eastern Poland.
The cow escaped from a farm in late October and has spent the last three months with the bison in the ancient and primeval forest Bialowieza Forest, which straddles the Polish-Belarusian border, despite temperatures dropping to -10 Centigrade.
Although cows, like bison, are natural herd animals biologists have said the relationship between the cow and her new friends is unusual.
“This is the not the first time that a cow has escaped in the region but it is the first time one has chosen to join a bison herd,” said Dr Rafal Kowalczyk, a biologist monitoring the bison.
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He said that the bison herd had most likely saved the cow from wolves that prowl the forest and surrounding countryside.
The bison, it appears, have followed their herd instinct and accepted the cow, which poses no threat to them.
But while the rare friendship has made for warm headlines in the Polish press, Dr Kowalczyk has warned that the cow’s presence among the bison brings with it dangers.
Speaking to TVN, a Polish television network, he explained that the cow will soon be old enough to breed.
“It is possible that they could breed and this could pollute the bison population with a hybrid,” said Dr Kowalczyk.
Bison became extinct in the wild in the early 20th century owing to hunting, and it was only in the 1950s that conservation programmes began to re-introduce Europe’s largest land animal back into its natural environment.
Despite the success of the programmes there are still only about 4,600 European bison in the world their populations have to be carefully nurtured and protected, hence the concern over the cow’s presence.
Biologists have also warned that any inter-breeding could endanger the cow’s life when giving birth because of the large size of bison calves.