You can’t judge a bovine by his cover

Host: Yougawalla Pastoral Co.
Written by Jane Sale ­– Manager, Yougawalla Pastoral Co.

Let me tell you a story about a Bull.  This bull is very special. Most would think it was his markings that made him so, but you can’t judge a bovine by his cover.

The calf that got the attention of a nation.

Inside this very famous exterior lies a very special animal. Most would know or could imagine that a bottle reared calf becomes quite affectionate and a lifelong pet in some cases. Over the years I have definitely been able to identify a three or four year old heifer that I have reared out of a yard full of freshly mustered cattle and walk up and give her a pat and a rub on the neck. I always thought this lifelong connection was pretty special. Anzac, however, was not bottle reared.

Growing up in the wild amongst the mob.

He grew up in a 350,000 acre paddock with his Mum and about 2500 other bovine friends. The only time he ever saw a human was, well, the first time was at the end of 2015 when Grace Harrison was out checking the water where Anzac was hanging with his Mum and took the famous photo that was posted on this website to celebrate Australia Day 2016 and instantly became an internet and local media sensation. For the next 6 months, Anzac only saw a human every two or three weeks driving past or a chopper flying overhead, until early July 2016 when his paddock was mustered.

All the cows and the bulls were mustered out of the paddock into a laneway and eventually into the main yards at Yougawalla Station and Anzac followed his Mum in. The cattle are taken through the draft and the cows, bulls and their offspring (weaners) are all separated into different pens. We knew Anzac was amongst them. We had also decided, given his famous markings, we would keep him as a pet, so the draft had the added job of separating Anzac as well.

It is not the done thing usually to put a weaner into a pen on their own. Safety in numbers is a bovine’s motto, when we picked him out and separated him off he just stood there quietly. Later that day when the cows had been walked out and the bulls put out in the dry season paddock he even let me walk up to him and touch him which is amazing for an essentially wild animal. Most weaners in a pen on their own would literally be climbing the yard if you tried this. The plan was to send him in the horse float up to the house to hang out with the bottle-fed calves but we had made the decision to castrate him first in order to keep him as a pet. A full-grown bull can play very rough with young kids so for his sake this had to happen just like our canine pets.  Anzac had a band put on his testicles which is a castration method for larger animals. It turned out that Anzac did not need constraint to put this band on he was in the crush and just turned his head and sniffed Tom’s head and had a look at what he was up too while he slipped the rubber loop over his testicles and tightened the ratchet. This was another sign that Anzac was a very special bull.

Anzac floating to his new home at the big house.

After driving him back to the homestead and the horse yard, we fed Anzac calf pellet and hay and left him for a few days in the horse arena to get used to his new home away from his Mum. I could see that the band was causing him discomfort. He sat down a bit, and I thought there would be a sore where the band had been put on. I thought I should try to get some betadine (antiseptic) onto the area. I walked behind him to direct him into the horse stable.  He walked in to the space and did not stress when I came close and shut the gate. I was able to fill a syringe with my betadine mixture and squirt it on his nether regions and he did not kick up any sort of fuss. In fact it was relieving him.  I did the same thing three times that day and the next morning he did an amazing thing. When the car pulled up he walked straight up the arena into the small pen in the horse stable and as I approached him, lifted his leg to make it easier for me to apply the remedy.

Within a couple of days we let him out into the homestead paddock and wherever I found him on the four wheeler he let me walk up and apply this remedy even though he had all the space he needed to run away. Anzac started to wander up the hill to the house for a pat. He was not bothered by the dogs licking him all over the face or the kids patting and yelling and screaming he would even stick his head over to the pool to see what all the yelling and splashing was about. He would stay at the house every night, next to the dog cage and the poddy calves he would sleep outside my  bedroom door.  It wasn’t just me he was affectionate with, he is definitely an incredibly gentle beast and loves attention from all but seems to understand different people’s fragility, like a young child.

Hughie and Anzac – two gentle souls.

Snuggling with Tilly.

The kids, after about three weeks, put on a bike helmet and asked if they could sit on his back. He happily stood there for them and we have since put a saddle and a girth on him without any fuss.

For one school term each year we are making a habit of heading to Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula so the kids can go to a “normal” primary school and experience social education and team sports and skills. Unfortunately, the down side to this is leaving our home behind for a long time. When we left last year in September to head south, Anzac had just settled in and we were loving having a cuddle every night before bed and every morning before he wandered down the hill to graze every day. I was feeling particularly sad about leaving Anzac as I was worried our special connection would not still be there when we got home.

Well and truly broken in.

Fast forward five months and we arrived home to the results of the most fabulous wet season that we have seen up here. We were delayed for a while due to the airstrip not even being accessible but after much anticipation we arrived and found our Anzac along with his mate Rooney the poddy calf we left here to keep him company, our dogs and cat Banjo. The whole family were as overjoyed as the animals to all be together again.

I tentatively walked up to Anzac to give him a pat. He gave me a sniff and then nuzzled his nose into me. When I walked back to the car he followed nudging me on the bottom all the way, then he chased the car like a puppy dog up the hill. He really is an amazing animal. While we were away the couple that were looking after the house were not patting him as they were nervous of such a large animal, which is fair enough, and he was spending his night out in the paddock. This made me more eager to get home and hope that he would still be our pet.

Morning cuddles.

Night time naps by the fire.

From our first night home he has slept outside my room again. Even when I moved to the other side of the house to sleep in the spare room because my aircon died, I woke up to find him lying next to the deck at the door. When the kids were heading to bed on the first night home, he was lying out the front and Gus jumped off the deck to give him a pat. He lay down against Anzac and he wrapped his head around Angus to rest his head in his lap.

I woke up this morning to find Tilly cuddled up to Anzac and Anzac cuddled up to Tilly. I often cuddle up against him at night time like this and he definitely has a calming effect on me.

Staring out over the plains of Yougawalla Station in the mornings I often have a bull casually grazing in the foreground and a map of Australia staring back at me and I think how symbolic is that of the Australia I know and love.

The animal, the map, the view ­– what a package.