How to get a large animal into a small boat

At the start of autumn, I sometimes help my farmer friend to bring her free-range beef cattle down from the local moor where they have been grazing throughout the summer. In winter, I help her to move them between various fields to ensure that they have enough grass to eat. In spring, I help return them to the moor.

Cows on moor
Some of my friend's cattle on the local moor.

Such experiences have given me a deep contempt for cattle, which I no longer try to conceal. Semi-wild cows are unbelievably stupid and wilful creatures. No force on Earth can compel them to go where they have decided they don't want to go—even when it is in their own best interest.

But I've never had to get a cow into a boat.

Fortunately, if I ever find myself in the position of needing to get a cow into a boat, I now know exactly how to do it thanks to Charles Darwin, who observed how it is done and recorded the technique for posterity in his useful animal-husbandry manual, The Voyage of the Beagle:

The road to Cucao was so very bad that we determined to embark in a periagua. The commandant, in the most authoritative manner, ordered six Indians to get ready to pull us over, without deigning to tell them whether they would be paid. The periagua is a strange rough boat, but the crew were still stranger: I doubt if six uglier little men ever got into a boat together. They pulled, however, very well and cheerfully. The stroke-oarsman gabbled Indian, and uttered strange cries, much after the fashion of a pig-driver driving his pigs. We started with a light breeze against us, but yet reached the Capella de Cucao before it was late. The country on each side of the lake was one unbroken forest. In the same periagua with us, a cow was embarked. To get so large an animal into a small boat appears at first a difficulty, but the Indians managed it in a minute. They brought the cow alongside the boat, which was heeled towards her; then placing two oars under her belly, with their ends resting on the gunwale, by the aid of these levers they fairly tumbled the poor beast heels over head into the bottom of the boat, and then lashed her down with ropes.

So now we know. Thanks, Charles.

Richard Carter, FCD

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteNewsletterMastodonetc…

One comment

  1. 'But I've never had to get a cow into a boat.'

    I though they did that kind of thing all the time in Hebden Bridge.

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