Bibi Dumon Tak
The Cow Book
Everything you need to know about cows
Anyone who starts off her book with a chapter about headstrong cows who make a run for it in order to escape from the slaughterhouse, must really love her subject. Thanks to this genuine love, The Cow Book is much more than just an informative book on the national symbol of the Netherlands.
Dumon Tak not only tells us how cows are put together, how they make milk, how calves are conceived and born and how they meet their end. We also hear how an inspector judges cows and learn what makes a fine-looking dairy cow, in the opinion of the farmer. Inspectors talk about udders as if they were expensive handbags. But first and foremost Dumon Tak solemnly crowns the cow the queen of the countryside.
The high point is the chapter on breeding. You almost feel sorry for studs like Sunny Boy, who has to ‘do it’ with a fake cow. Dryly and with a wink, the writer shows what it is like in the chilly world of frozen super sperm.
Dumon Tak combines a journalistic approach with flowery and humorous sentences, which makes The Cow Book more a highly personal, literary account than just a run-of-the-mill non-fiction book that only aims to inform. It is almost as if the cows tell their own story. The writer lets everyone who has anything to do with them have their say. We not only hear from the owner of the ‘retirement farm’ for elderly cows, but also the slaughterer, who may just care a lot about cows after all.
Nobody who has read this book will ever look the same at a cow again; the reader will fall in love with her too. Every cow gets its own character and we have no choice but to admire all the things they can do. Dumon Tak lets her cows live in language and they have earned that.
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