An Udder Mystery

I have an exam tomorrow morning worth 18% of my final grade in the Farm Animal course. Clearly, this is the time for me to sit down and update the blog I’ve neglected since JULY.

But, I need a study break. Our exam tomorrow is over all cow medicine. All of it. Like everything that can go wrong with cows and how to fix it…or even take things that are not broken and just make them better. Fortunately (unfortunately?), a lot of farm animal medicine can be summed up to “give it penicillin or shoot it.”

OK, seriously, it’s not that dismal, but it is quite different from learning about diagnostic MRIs for Morkie-poos, chemo therapy for Chihuahuas and CAT scans for cats… Farm medicine is a whole new wondrous world (and still holds a good deal of mystery for yours truly!)

So, after spending the day flirting with my flash cards and staring down the sizeable pile of notes on my coffee table, I decided to give my brain a real break. My head felt so full, I wanted to wrap a big bandage around it to keep all that information from leaking out of my ears! In hindsight, I should have done just that….and made a cup of herbal tea….and crawled into bed….at 6:30 pm.

Anyway, I was feeling a bit guilty for being a terrible dog owner and skimping on Huck’s walks today. Also, I might have looked at my animals dead in the eye this evening and said, “If you both don’t leave me alone, I’m going to the library to study and NEVER COMING BACK.”

Or, I might have said exactly that with some pointedly inserted profanity. So, to ease my guilt, I decided Huck and I would take a leisurely sniff-everything-off-lead stroll around the meadows, allowing me to clear my mind and digest my Thai takeout.

Not even halfway across the meadows, my phone lit up and I looked at it for the first time in hours. It was a message from this guy I’m (dating? I guess that’s what its called – we’re going out on dates…but that’s all for now.) So yeah, this guy I’m dating. period. no question mark.

He asked if we were still going to get together tomorrow. At first, I cringed. I have plans to see him Friday and after he sent me a photo of the 6 month old Clydesdale foal he just bought, I made plans to see his horses, errrhhhmmm to see him at the stable on Sunday afternoon. Getting together tomorrow night means three dates in one week!

That seems like a lot of dating. But, I decided three dates in one week is ok since all the dates are things I want to do. Is this how dating works? I don’t even know.

Anyway, I digress. The Dude and I made plans to get a drink tomorrow evening. I told him to pick the place and time, my brain was too full to plan anything. He asked if he could help and I told him just to let me know where to go and not to ask me any questions about cows. And then, I added a few of the little cow ermojis because I think that’s what people do when they’re dating.

Of course his response was to ask me something about cows:

How many nipples do cows have?

I roll my eyes and start typing my reply: “Four”

(*I didn’t correct him and say they were called teats not nipples because I am trying to be less emasculating in my text messages and he doesn’t go to vet school and for all intensive purposes, they are nipples).

Then, I continued, with growing anxiety, “Which, now that I think of it, doesn’t make any sense for them to have four because cows are designed to have one calf -sometimes two, but they are still considered monotocous!

At this point, I’m pretty sure my pupils dilated and my heart rate sped up:

WHY DO COWS HAVE FOUR NIPPLES – errr teats. Whatever. 

I messaged the one person I could trust to answer me honestly and without judgment, Jersey. She writes back, “Yes – And sheep only have two!

Key full blown panic! It’s nothing for sheep to have twin or triplet (sometimes quadruplet) lambs! AND THEY ONLY HAVE TWO TEATS! WHY DO COWS HAVE FOUR!!!

Jersey also kindly reminded me to not say nipples in front of farmers.

(She’s right. It’s just not done. I really will have to inform The Dude one day.)

Then, Jersey continued, “Seriously – where did the extra two come from? I don’t think hippos or whales have four.”

Good. It was getting to her, too. I wasn’t the only bamboozled vet student this evening in Edinburgh.

We discussed the possibility of cows fostering each other’s young and even being genetically selected for more teats to get more milk back in the early days of domestication.

I ran the theories by my friend who is a real life vet.

She thinks I’m a nutter.

When I got home from the walk, I tried to find out more about hippopotamus and whale teats on the internet, on the off chance I could gain some more insight into cow mammary development.

Fail.  I couldn’t find any pictures of hippopotamus teats and they are pretty hard to discern from a side-on photo:

I did find a really sweet article about baby beluga whales suckling. I think it was written for children. I loved it. Baby beluga. So freaking cute.

Still, I felt no closer to solving the mystery about why cows have four teats. I’ve been studying cows almost exclusively for over a month now and I couldn’t answer one simple question.

It would have been sad if I still had the capacity to feel.

I’ve certainly hit a wall. It’s time for that cup of tea and a good night’s sleep. It’s my hope, in the morning, I’ll awaken to a comment on this post answering this udderly mysterious conundrum.

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About ermodi

i like champagne and nachos. i watch people’s mouths move when they talk to me and judge if they are a good kisser i like to write with fine-tip Sharpies because i think it makes me look confident i bite my nails i think doing the dishes is a very lonely chore i think “autumn” is the prettiest word in the English language. i believe in love – or, at least something that resembles love, but i don’t trust this idea of forever.
This entry was posted in Academia, Animals, Dating or Something Like it, Edinburgh, Vet School. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to An Udder Mystery

  1. julie.eman says:

    Unfortunately I don’t know why cows have four teats either, but I did find this online….

    “The cow has four quarters in their udder. Each quarter has a teat. If you watch a calf, they will suck the milk from one teat and then move to the others so I suspect this is how nature ensures the calves get their fill.
    Interestingly enough, Alpaca’s, goats and horses also have four quarters. Horses and goats have two teats while alpaca’s have four teats For horses and goats, one teat goes to two quarters so the baby is draining two quarters at one time through one teat. Each quarter has an opening that goes to the teat.”

    Of course this might not really be an answer to your mystery, but it’s the best I could do. As a FYI, though, Guinea Pigs only have two nipples 😉

    I will be sending happy thoughts to you all day tomorrow even though I know you’ll rock this farm animal exam even if the “mystery of the teat” never gets solved.

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