Mystifying Bovine Dalliances

By Richard Boughton

I had other things to write about, really – in fact a train of things, lined up like boxcars, each packed with its own particular load of goods – but then along comes this story about sex with cows, as reported in the most recent edition of The Bali Times, and I can’t get the thing out of my mind.

Just when the thieving pig, otherwise known as Babi Ngepet, described in the same paper perhaps a year ago, was beginning to lose his novelty, and thus his boorish grip on my daily thoughts, this preposterous bovine tale appears, and my mind lumbers off on the back of the creature, helpless to resume its own way.

But let’s recap first and touch on the salient facts of the matter.

“The incident came to light,” the article tells us, “on September 22, when the daughter of the owner of the cow allegedly caught a married local man having sex with the animal in a field.” This, therefore, was not only perversion, but adultery, and would need to be addressed by a ceremony of purification. I’m not sure if both sins were to be covered in the ceremony, or just the one specific to the cow.

A meeting of local traditional leaders and religious figures was immediately called to discuss the matter.

Attending also was a psychiatrist – a modern touch for an age-old calamity. What to do?

You see, incidents such as this are not unheard of in Bali. In fact, this sort of human and cow hanky-panky has been a recurring problem on the island. In a similar case last year a young man was forced to marry a cow after having sex with it. Pertaining to the case at hand, however, the guilty man, as assessed by the psychiatrist, was depressed, and so it was felt that marriage would only make things worse.

Now, there is an extenuating factor at play in this otherwise unacceptable romance of beast and man which should be mentioned, lest we conclude the man to be totally bereft of common decency (although we cannot speak for the cow). To whit, the cow had in all cases, by some magic, managed to turn into a beautiful girl. This is strange not only in itself but also for the fact that such transformations seem more often to work the other way around. In any case, wonderful in its own way is the fact that in Bali, a land of magic and superstition, one can make a claim such as this and be taken seriously.

There was music, the man is rumoured to have said, and beauty, and flowers, and bells, and a peaceful field of green, green, grass, where a curvaceous maiden, a new blooming bud, beckoned him to come thence and enter with her to the heart of bliss.

The psychiatrist in the case is noted to have said that the man might have mental problems.

And yet we have heard of the Sirens, have we not? And of mermaids and of witchery and of the beautiful and monstrous Medusa – those ancient, inhuman seductresses who lured sailors to shipwreck and captivity with enchanting voice and song.

“Well, I think I’m goin’ out of my head.

Yes I think I’m goin’ out of my head,

Over you . . .

Moo-mooo-moooo . . .”

Well, it’s just not quite the same thing, is it?

How does this happen, one certainly wonders – and not only in the moral sense but in the anatomical as well. For the largest of men is still rather small compared to the enormity in the least of cows. Did the cow seem a human girl throughout the entire episode or did the man at some point become sober and realise his mistake? And are men alone afflicted in this perversion or are women liable also, and saved merely by impracticability?

So many questions, so few answers – and that’s the hell of the thing. It besieges the mind, tormenting through a repellent dissonance of imagery and inquiry. It’s a puzzle that resists its own picture. We struggle to know, yet can hardly guess; and so we are lost in the redundant folds of the enigma – until the next interesting animal comes along, anyway.

Richard can be contacted via

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