4 years of college, I can't tell a cow from a bull

4 years of college, I can't tell a cow from a bull »Play Video

The following is an personal tale from Eyewitness News morning anchor John Dabkovich.


It turns out, telling the difference between male and female bovines is not as easy as you'd think, at least for broadcast journalists.

Wednesday night, a steer or bull (not quite sure) managed to escape from the truck that was taking it, and others, to the slaughter house. Hijinx ensued.

The fugitive bovine led police on a hoof chase through the streets of Paterson, N.J.

Even without the music from the old "Benny Hill Show," the chase made for great, or slightly amusing, TV.  So, an Eyewitness News producer put it in our rundown (TV jargon). 

As I read the story off the teleprompter (I don't memorize everything), I said a "cow" escaped from the truck. Then, later, I referred to the cow as "he" and "him."  Towards the end of the story, I thought to myself, "cows are female" and I corrected myself.

Too late.

"Hey, John!!!!! A cow is a 'she' not a 'he,' read a helpful Facebook comment from faithful viewer B.J. Russell. 
But I wasn't the only one to screw this up. WNBC-TV in New York City, the media capital of the universe, also seemed to be confused.

So, I asked the question on Facebook: Are all cows female or can it be used as a catch-all term for bovines in general?

My friend Sophia Mallon, who is a veterinarian in training, answered: "Is this a legit question? Just making sure before I answer."

Johanna Stevens said, "Cows are always females, bulls and steers male. Just as a ewe is always female, and a ram is a male."

The award for most detailed answer goes to Diane Holloway Kunick: "Cow (female domesticated ox or other bovine): bull (male, uncastrated), ox or steer (male, castrated), heifer (female, immature) .. The female of larger species of mammal, including bovines, moose, whales, seals, hippos, rhinos, manatees, and elephants."

Bottom line: The animal that escaped certain death was a male. We incorrectly identified him as a "cow." His owner says he has been sent to a farm in upstate New York.  No doubt he will run into one of the my numerous childhood pets that also "went to a farm."

Also, a big thank you to all of my Facebook friends who helped *ahem* figure out the problem.