100 Days in India Project

Chow standing at the top of the ghats in Varanasi, India

17/ 100 Can Cows Climb Steps?

Before our second trip to India we were chatting about our previous visit with a friend who was a farmer. The conversation was mainly about the scattering of un-farmed farm animals that were dotted through every city we visited and were free to roam anywhere they desired.

Things got a little heated when he told us it was a well-known fact that cattle can’t climb steps. He said they were very reluctant to walk up them and would never walk down unless forced by a farmer. He said their physiology wouldn’t allow it.

Having seen them ambling up and down the stone ghats in Varanasi every single day I can wholeheartedly assure you that they are actually very adept at it. Cows can definitely use steps. Admittedly, I don’t think getting up and down the ghats was their favourite thing to do as we definitely noticed they would spend a few days on the same level. Then, one day you would find that the animal you had seen by the water’s edge the day before had clambered back up the steep steps and was at the top again.

At the top of the steps, in amongst the tightly-packed buildings, water was pretty scarce so I expect they were drawn down to the river to drink. When they were full of holy water they would amble off looking for a tasty garland of funereal flowers to be eaten.

In the photograph above, on the very left-hand side, you will see a stone carving of a bull. This is the Hindu god Nandi, the protector of the great(er) Hindu god Shiva. You can find many of these guardian statues at the entrance to temples and holy places and Indian people sometimes say ‘don’t be a Nandi’, as a way of telling you that you are always in the way.