When the cows come home!

by Paul White

As part of everyday life in a Transylvanian village, there are a number of chores that have to be completed before leaving home to work in the fields. Not only do the livestock need feeding, but the family does too. Then the cows are let out of their stalls and released onto the street. The neighbours take it in turn to shuffle and encourage the cows along from one meeting point to the next. The herd gradually gathers in size, until they reach the meadow herders. 

Village life in Transylvania

Village scene in Transylvania

Herdsmen and their dogs are responsible for the safety of these cows by preventing depredation by wolves and bears that live in the forests surrounding the meadows. They stay with them from early morning until they return them to the village in the evening. This is how the herdsmen make their living with each villager paying them a fee for looking after their cow or cows during the day whilst they graze. These common meadows that surround the village negates the need for individual residents to own or rent land to graze their cows, also providing employment for the herders and to gain access to high quality meadow grass.

Off to the meadow!

Cows returning home from inter-forest meadows [Explored]

For outsiders looking in, the big spectacle of the day is watching the cows returning home in the evening. There are differences in the level of supervision required from one village to another, which really depends on the level of traffic. Many herders only return to the periphery of the village where the cows are left to find their own way home. They are taught this from a very young age, usually following their mother or owner for the first few weeks until they can return alone.

Once the cow can reaches their home, they then stand outside the gate until someone lets them in. If the owner forgets, the cow will either wait patiently nibbling on the grass verge, or they will “moo” until the owner hears them. Once in, they then walk to the barn and return to their own stall for the night.

Many people have told me that they remember similar practices in other areas of Europe and the United States, but unfortunately have died out over recent decades. An amazing spectacle to watch, one which I hope survives in Transylvania .