Three US cities have been tackling the same bovine problem this week, when separate groups of cattle broke free of their respective chains – a slaughterhouse, a cattle-hauling truck, and a farm with a broken fence – and caused a commotion on roads, railways and a recreation area.
The escapes were inconspicuous at first. On Monday, three loose cattle roamed the streets of Bluefield, West Virginia, after escaping through a broken fence. Trains had to be stopped as authorities tried to coax the animals off the tracks.
Bluefield police officer A.D. Moore helped wrangle the cattle – and crossed off the list of career milestones her first ever call involving livestock.
“It was a little weird,” she told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and it took about two hours. “Thankfully, we got them off the tracks and kept them off the avenue.”
It was not the first time that runaway cattle had been apprehended in the city. In 1916, the same local paper reported that four cattle had been “arrested” and were being held “until called for by the owner”.
The stakes were higher in Wednesday’s great escape, when 40 cattle fled a California slaughterhouse and ended up in a Los Angeles suburb. While one of the animals was killed after charging a family, another was rescued by the Grammy, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning songwriter Diane Warren, who stepped in on Thursday to save the life of one cow that had eluded capture for more than a day. The remaining 38 were rounded up after their brief taste of freedom.
The songwriter, who wrote the hits “Can’t fight the moonlight” and “Nothing’s gonna stop us now”, contacted the city of Pico Rivera to arrange to have the cow sent to the Farm Sanctuary north of Los Angeles, city manager Steve Carmona said.
Carmona said the city council had already authorised him to open a dialogue about the cow with the owner of the slaughterhouse when Warren stepped in. He said the transfer was dependent on a state agriculture health check.
“These poor babies escaping for their lives,” Warren tweeted earlier about the stampede.
The cow became a celebrity after it vanished in the nation’s most populous county until it was spotted before dawn on Thursday in the sprawling Whittier Narrows recreation area in South El Monte, about 10 miles (16km) east of downtown Los Angeles.
It did not give up without a fight.
Two wranglers lassoed the animal but it knocked down and kicked one of them during the capture, covered by TV news helicopters. At one point, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies used their patrol cars to keep the big animal from bolting into rush-hour traffic on a nearby major road.
The furry fugitive ended up several miles from the Pico Rivera slaughterhouse, which Carmona said has been in business since the 1920s.
On Thursday, the beasts struck again. This time a cattle-hauling truck rolled over along Interstate 64 in West Virginia, and an emergency dispatcher in Cabell County said a bridge connecting the city of Huntington to Lawrence County, Ohio, also had to be temporarily closed.
The dispatcher, who cited policy in declining to give his name, said authorities were trying to determine how many cattle were on the truck. However, the hotfooting heifers took off in several directions, including on to the nearby bridge.
The dispatcher said police in Ohio told him “they’re running up and down the highway there, too.”
Firefighters were sent to assist the truck. The accident forced the interstate to be shut down in the area. Huntington is home to Marshall University, whose nickname happens to be the Thundering Herd.