Great Cow Empire
In that dim
age between the fall of the dinosaurs and the rise of man, the forces
of nature produced several species who attempted to claim the earth.
None was more successful, nor more tragic, than the empire of the cows.
the ruminants we know today, they lived separately rather than in
groups. Their tendency of keeping their heads down to nibble grass
made them easy prey for the wolf-like carnivores that shared their
epoch. But this was about to change.
On a fateful
morning, one cow raised his head at the snap of a twig off to his
left. A wolf was approaching. Dimly aware of danger, the cow turned
and ambled away, leaving the wolf to devour a nearby cow who hadn't
looked up. Something in the surviving cow's vague consciousness made
the connection between lifting its head in response to a sound and
living to eat more grass. In the future it looked around anytime it
heard an odd sound and in so doing avoided the predators that ravaged
the rest of his kind. He lived long enough to father a hundred
offspring, many of whom inherited their father's ability to walk away
from threatening sounds. The great cow empire had begun.
generations later, all of the heads-down cows had vanished. Only cows
with the instinct to look up from time to time survived. The time was
ripe for the next great step.
began much like the first: a sound warning of approaching danger. All
the widely scattered cows who heard it raised their heads, saw
nothing and when back to munching grass. All except one. He kept his
head high, wondering why a sound usually portending danger failed to
produce an obvious threat. As he was about to lower his head, a pack
of wolves slowly emerged from behind a stand of bushes. Recognizing
them for what they were, he moved off, ignoring the death bleats of
the cows that had remained. This cow learned that danger might not
always be connected with a warning. From this day forward he kept his
head high as much as possible, not just in response to danger but in
anticipation of it. This forced him to eat less which, when combined
with moving more frequently to avoid dangerous situations, kept him
leaner and healthier than the other cows. As a consequence he lived
long enough to foster a whole new race of cows. Over the next
thousand generations, anticipation evolved into curiosity, curiosity
to intelligence and intelligence to invention.
their cloven hooves, cows could not write or build. But they could
think and in time communicate through a language heavy in low throaty
hoots and bellows. They had song and poetry, philosophy and even
religion. In spite of all this advancement their numbers were still
small because their predators had evolved as well. They'd become
cunning enough to attack from several directions at once so there was
no safe direction for their intended victim to escape. The stage was
set for the cow's greatest development of all: the herd. It was also
to be their doom.
On a clear,
bright day, one cow had walked to the top of a hill overlooking a
valley speckled with widely spaced cows. From his vantage he
witnessed a large pack of wolves surround and attack one of his
kinsmen. Even though the hapless cow had sensed the danger, there was
no avenue of escape. It occurred to the cow on the hill that if the
cows clustered close together the wolves would not be able to
surround any individual to kill it. He waited for the wolves to
leave, then returned to the valley. The surviving cows quickly
accepted his mutual protection plan. Standing shoulder to shoulder,
they moved as a unit. The young were protected in the center of the
herd and attackers were so effectively thwarted that they gave up
trying to attack them. In time the predators died off and the cows prospered.
spread over the face of the planet. Herds formed everywhere and were
so effective the cow population exploded. Herds merged into
super-herds that covered the land from horizon to horizon. Herd
leaders were created to decide which direction to go for new feeding
grounds. The great empire of the cow had arrived. But hardly had it
established dominion over the earth than it started to fall apart.
expanded to the point where grass began to get scarce. Recognizing
the danger, the smarter cows began limiting the number of their
offspring, whereas less smart cows continued to over produce. The
herds continued to expand as grass became rare. Herd leaders,
enjoying the power and prestige of office, courted the support of the
less smart cows because there were more of them than smart cows. They
catered to the ignorant beliefs of the less smart cows by saying that
there always had been more grass so there always would be more or
that the great cow god would intervene to save them. And so it began.
spiral was so gradual that few could perceive it happening. But
nature has a longer view of things and could see what was coming.
What nature knew that the cows didn't was that short sighted
intelligence is an evolutionary dead end. Another thousand
The smart cows
disappeared. The simple effectiveness of the herd didn't need
intelligence to maintain it. The grass was almost gone as well.
Massive herds scoured the land, allowing their numbers to expand
without regard for the limitation of the resources to support them.
The cows had lost the intellect to do so. Then one day it happened.
A cow heard
the snap of a twig signaling the possible approach of a predator.
Confident in the power of the herd, he didn't bother to look up. By
doing so he learned he could consume more grass than his neighbor,
live longer and have more offspring. It worked, and pushed the great
cow empire ever further down the slope of destruction.
food, more and more cows kept their heads down, thinking little more
than where their next mouthful was coming from. Time faded into time
and the age of man arrived. By then the great cow empire had long
since vanished. All that remained were the poor dumb beasts we know
today. They had it all, but for all their accomplishments they didn't
think to preserve the very intelligence that enabled them to conquer
the earth. They failed to understand that any species that doesn't
take control of its genetic future is doomed to oblivion.
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