Michele: Today on my bike ride I had a delightful conversation with the cows at a farm in Wongaling. I moo - they moo - I moo etc. You get the picture. This got me thinking about the differences among the cows that I've meet while cycling in different parts of the world. I've been pretty lucky to have had the opportunity over the past 20-odd years to have cycled in some beautiful places around the world and there are distinctive differences among cows of various countries. Warning: stereotypes are present in the following analysis.
America: This is a composite of cow conversations in coastal CA (Santa Barbara to Eureka), Wisconsin, NJ and MA. Cow interactions in other regions (e.g. Texas) may differ. American cows are friendly and nearly always moo back warmly. In fact, once they get going it is hard to get them to stop. It seems that they thrive on attention from passers-by. They having a lilting moo that tends to be higher toned than cow of other countries - a little whiny/needy.
England: British cows are friendly, they will moo back with a hearty warm moo but at the same time they are a bit aloof. No sustained conversations with these cows and often they would move away from you after a the first exchange of moos. During 2 weeks of cycling through southwest England I learned something about the British. They have too many hedges! The beautiful countryside can only be appreciated in small glimpses through the breaks in the hedges at gates. Perhaps their aloofness owes to these hedges. The poor cows have a very small view of the world and are understandably wary of greetings from across the hedges.
Northeastern France: French cows are a little crazy. Sometimes they converse with you but often they just watch you pass with unblinking eyes. Their moos tend to have an upward lilt - similar to American cows but more demonstrative and less inquisitive. One time near the Loire, I greeted some cows and got the entire herd stampeding along side us across the pasture. Of course, our road was longer than their pasture and they came careening to a stop at the end of the pasture. Hmm. Les vaches sont peu des folles! No? During our 3.5 weeks there it rained every single day. This didn't help our sanity and may have contributed to the behavior of the cows.
The Netherlands: Dutch cows do not care to converse with passing American cyclists and don't even make eye contact. Despite many of my warm and courteous 'moos' I received not a single response. We weren't in the cities either, we spent two weeks cycling through prime cow country of the Overijssel, Friesland and Gronigen. About half way in, my Dutch friend Pauline, pointed out to me that in the Netherlands, the cows say 'Boo' and not 'Moo'. Ah! After that I tried booing but this didn't have any effect either. I think I know the source of the problem. Have you been to the Netherlands? The place is teeming with hordes of cyclists. The bike paths through the National Park of the Veluve has veritable traffic jams of cyclists. Dutch cows have seen it all before and with classic Dutch stubbornness they are not about to humor the cyclists.
New Zealand: Kiwi cows are very friendly and quick to engage conversation with a warm hardy moo. Some will sustain long conversations. Cows in New Zealand are far outnumbered by the sheep. I suspect the cows enjoy the attention of cyclists. By the way, getting sheep to scamper across the hills of New Zealand is great fun. All you have to do is 'bah' at one and it will startle, starting a chain reaction that is glorious to watch.
Australia: Once you get their attention Australian cows are very friendly and responsive though not excessively talkative (like American cows). They have a deep resonating moo that expresses warmth and curiosity. In all my cow conversations anywhere, I always initiate the discourse with an opening greeting. Imagine my surprise this morning when on my return trip past the cows, one of the Aussie cows greeted me as I came up the hill. Talk about out-going! Australian cows are by far the most extroverted and friendly cows I've ever met.