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Cow: A Bovine Biography

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She is everywhere: as a vehicle for both farmers and advertisers, a subject for research scientists and poets, and ever-present in the form of lucky charms, children's toys, or simply as a tasty sandwich-filler. The female of the bovine species is revered as sacred or reviled as stupid, but one thing she never inspires is indifference. After more than ten thousand years li She is everywhere: as a vehicle for both farmers and advertisers, a subject for research scientists and poets, and ever-present in the form of lucky charms, children's toys, or simply as a tasty sandwich-filler. The female of the bovine species is revered as sacred or reviled as stupid, but one thing she never inspires is indifference. After more than ten thousand years living alongside us, she remains a beguiling mystery. Combining a myriad of richly entertaining anecdotes and an abundance of illuminating discoveries, Florian Werner presents the curious cultural history of that most intriguing of animals: the cow. Since evolving from the aurochs, an ungulate that grazed the Persian grasslands, the cow has embedded itself into virtually all aspects of our lives. Cow is the first book to look at the animal in its countless manifestations in cultures around the world. Werner examines cows' role in commerce as an early form of currency and their place on our plates and in our stomachs in the form of meat and dairy products. Florian Werner examines how cows are worshipped in some circles, such as in Hindu mythology, and abhorred in others, today being vilified as an agent of climate change. And he waxes philosophic about the significance of the cow's rumination and cud chewing, as well as her simple but meaningful moo. Combining thorough research with an accessible writing style, Florian Werner offers readers an eye-opening perspective on this commodified animal, whose existence is inextricably intertwined with ours and which we too often take for granted.


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She is everywhere: as a vehicle for both farmers and advertisers, a subject for research scientists and poets, and ever-present in the form of lucky charms, children's toys, or simply as a tasty sandwich-filler. The female of the bovine species is revered as sacred or reviled as stupid, but one thing she never inspires is indifference. After more than ten thousand years li She is everywhere: as a vehicle for both farmers and advertisers, a subject for research scientists and poets, and ever-present in the form of lucky charms, children's toys, or simply as a tasty sandwich-filler. The female of the bovine species is revered as sacred or reviled as stupid, but one thing she never inspires is indifference. After more than ten thousand years living alongside us, she remains a beguiling mystery. Combining a myriad of richly entertaining anecdotes and an abundance of illuminating discoveries, Florian Werner presents the curious cultural history of that most intriguing of animals: the cow. Since evolving from the aurochs, an ungulate that grazed the Persian grasslands, the cow has embedded itself into virtually all aspects of our lives. Cow is the first book to look at the animal in its countless manifestations in cultures around the world. Werner examines cows' role in commerce as an early form of currency and their place on our plates and in our stomachs in the form of meat and dairy products. Florian Werner examines how cows are worshipped in some circles, such as in Hindu mythology, and abhorred in others, today being vilified as an agent of climate change. And he waxes philosophic about the significance of the cow's rumination and cud chewing, as well as her simple but meaningful moo. Combining thorough research with an accessible writing style, Florian Werner offers readers an eye-opening perspective on this commodified animal, whose existence is inextricably intertwined with ours and which we too often take for granted.

30 review for Cow: A Bovine Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kai Schreiber

    Lehrreich, unterhaltsam, mit einem schlagenden Herz, und dabei so nahrhaft wie ein kleines Steak. Hier fliegt Die Kuh. Mitfliegen!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kirk Johnson

    Every once in a while near the beginning, the author (or translator?) betrays in his phrasing and word choice that he was bred in the PC vats of academia, which is not objectionable other than being tiresome. Other than that, this is an expansive and sometimes mind-bending overview of the cow in culture, especially European culture (as opposed to North American), and written in fine style.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I loved it!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Raghu

    The 'Cow' is an unusual book by an author from the land that invented Hamburgers. Normally, in the West, it is the exotic species like the dolphins, whales, polar bears etc which get all the attention and positive vibes. Who can forget the great books on 'Man-eating tigers' by Jim Corbett or 'The Lion called Christian'? Or James Thurber's dog stories?. The cow, in contrast, is seen as an animal consumed by its own monotonous life. How often have I been asked in my travels, 'Why do Indians worshi The 'Cow' is an unusual book by an author from the land that invented Hamburgers. Normally, in the West, it is the exotic species like the dolphins, whales, polar bears etc which get all the attention and positive vibes. Who can forget the great books on 'Man-eating tigers' by Jim Corbett or 'The Lion called Christian'? Or James Thurber's dog stories?. The cow, in contrast, is seen as an animal consumed by its own monotonous life. How often have I been asked in my travels, 'Why do Indians worship the Cow? It is a stupid animal'. So, Florian Werner's book is a refreshing breath of fresh air, taking a holistic view of the Cow and bringing to our attention the various perspectives on the animal based on Western art, literature and history. The theme that runs through the book is that ever since humans domesticated the cow, there has been a symbiotic relationship between us and that this relationship is to the benefit of both the species. This relationship in turn resulted in the cow forsaking its freedom in return for the security, away from the uncertainties of the wild. In discussing this, the author makes some perceptive observations on the human condition as well. He says that cows have always been used as a benchmark for repressive inter-personal relationships, for forms of slavery and serfdom. Like the cows, it is possible to imagine a future human race that is contented, unselfconscious and ruminating. This could result in a life that is restricted to typically bovine functions - birth, consumption, rumination, production, leisure, reproduction and death. The author goes on to say that if we want to arrest this 'bovinization of humanity' and live in freedom as a human ideal, then we must treat the cows the way we would like to be treated. We must free the cows who have been our prisoners for thousands of years. In the chapter 'Evil Cows', Werner outlines how in recent decades the cow has been demonized as a culprit contributing to global warming and environmental destruction. Some of the statistics are alarming. Consider the following: 65 sq ft of jungle gives way to making a single hamburger; In the US, half the total water consumption is used to grow cattle feed; Cattle account for twice as much groundwater pollution as the entirety of North American industries; The greenhouse gas effect of cow burps amounts to about two billion tons a year. The author says that the 'cattle complex' consisting of farmers, feed producers, slaughterhouses, leather manufacturers, beef eaters, milk drinkers and others involved in the global cow trade are morally responsible for this' ecological aberration'. I would have thought that this is not just an aberration but a catastrophe. Still, the author does not advance a call to less eating of meat and milk products or more vegetarianism as an obvious solution. The chapter 'Happiness through Rumination' speculates on Nietsche's proposition that the lack of the faculty of memory in cows and other animals as the root cause of their contentment and happiness. If this is so, I wonder whether Alzheimer's is God's gift to us in old age. Finally, I read the book in English, superbly translated by Doris Ecker from the original German. It is unfair to even call it a translation. It reads very much like it was rewritten in English. The book is a fine tribute to this peaceful animal.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    In this non-fiction book, Werner explores the cultural and social impact of the cow on society through the ages from the beginning of time. Werner illustrates the role of the cow throughout history using references found in literature, art, music and everyday language. This book is divided into chapters considering various parts of the cow such as the eye and the hide and how the cow has contributed to humans’ well being through the ages. He considers other questions such as environmental issues In this non-fiction book, Werner explores the cultural and social impact of the cow on society through the ages from the beginning of time. Werner illustrates the role of the cow throughout history using references found in literature, art, music and everyday language. This book is divided into chapters considering various parts of the cow such as the eye and the hide and how the cow has contributed to humans’ well being through the ages. He considers other questions such as environmental issues on which some people have blamed the cow. The cow is a topic which Werner has cleverly expanded by covering almost every imaginable perspective. It is a book worth reading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Boyce

    I enjoyed reading this book but I didn't feel like it really taught me anything about cows. I enjoyed reading this book but I didn't feel like it really taught me anything about cows.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Velvetink

    epub version

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Church

    Do you want to learn about cows via literary examples and a lot of German poetry? I'll answer for you. Not really. Do you want to learn about cows via literary examples and a lot of German poetry? I'll answer for you. Not really.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    This book has everything you would like to know about cows and perhaps some things that you don't want to know. This book has everything you would like to know about cows and perhaps some things that you don't want to know.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Fontaine

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lorel

  12. 4 out of 5

    Colette

  13. 4 out of 5

    Greystone Books

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gregory

  15. 5 out of 5

    Celadevra

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gahl Shottan

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gregj

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Jerpe

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Dinis

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Emory

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katrin Hüttemann

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

  24. 5 out of 5

    Emma

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brad Koegler

  26. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  27. 5 out of 5

    D.P. Argyle

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nauajish Rahaman Sheul

  29. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Prescott

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nadja Varga

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