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Farmers in the village of Levron in Switzerland are trying to determine why 13 young cows mysteriously jumped off of a cliff to their deaths — except for one late-jumper that survived by landing on the others. Was it animal suicide? If something scared or attacked them, why did yaks in the same pasture stay put? Will it happen again?
According to local newspaper Le Matin, the mass jumping occurred on the night of May 24th. The calves, 13 Hérens aged 6-8 months, were found at the bottom of a 50 meter (165 foot) drop and all were dead except for the one on top, which was taken to an animal hospital in nearby Cern where it was treated for a broken jaw. The rest were cremated at a meat waste facility, to the dismay of a local animal warden who wanted to inspect them to help determine why they leaped to their deaths.
Hérens are named for the Val d’Hérens alpine valley in the Valais canton of Switzerland. They’re one of the smallest cattle breeds in Europe and are bred primarily for beef and for cow fighting. That’s right … the females are highly aggressive and are trained to fight each other in weight-classed bouts that are a major tourist attraction for the area. Could the animals have gotten into a battle royale and accidentally fallen out of the bull ring (I guess the proper term in this case would be cow ring)? Is their aggressive breeding causing some sort of mental illness? Are they just tired of fighting and trying to send farmers a message that they want to live in peace, harmony and milk?
Cows are not sheep that follow each other, when they are scared they tend to disperse. The behavior of the calves was provoked. The fact that they broke the wires in several places makes me think that they were prosecuted.
Norbert Terrettaz, president of a local farming insurance company, suspects the cows were chased or spooked by a wolf, a lynx or a dog. However, that doesn’t explain the fact that there were no scratches or bites on the corpses, no tracks or spores on top of the cliff and no explanation for why the yaks didn’t run too – either off the cliff or, after hearing the splats, in the opposite direction.
Unlike in humans, animal suicide is extremely rare and difficult to confirm. It’s been proven that, despite their reputation, lemmings do not follow each other off of cliffs. The infamous Overtoun Bridge in Scotland is the site of hundreds of dogs seemingly committing suicide, but it turns out they’re attracted by the smell of minks on the ground below and aren’t too good at estimating the height. Then there’s the case of certain rats becoming sexually turned on by the smell of cat urine (seriously – here’s the paper) and ending up cat food. That one was traced to a cat parasite that affected the rats.
So what killed the fighting Hérens of Levron? Their owners would like to know since the total value of the 12 dead cows was 20,000 francs or about $20,000 US. As of this writing, the local gamekeeper has no answer.
I have never heard of such a thing, it can not be explained. I will monitor the area at night with the thermal camera.
Has he considered aliens? The French?