Europe's Unlikely Media Star: Yvonne, the Dairy Cow

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Josef Enzinger / AFP / Getty Images

A free-ranging cow named Yvonne in Zangberg near Muehldorf, southern Germany on July 21, 2011.

This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global-news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in Süddeutsche Zeitung.

ZANGBERG — On May 24, a German dairy cow, Yvonne, got past electrified fencing in the pasture where she was grazing and headed for the woods near this tiny Bavarian commune (pop. 1,100).

She has since captured media attention all over Germany, having become something of a symbol for the freedom and dignity of animals, and particularly of cows, which are treated with little regard as nothing more than sources of meat and milk.

When the local mayor, Franz Märkl, looks out his office window and sees yet another group of rubber-booted, camera-toting people heading for the woods where Yvonne is occasionally spotted, he can't help but laugh. "We sure trained that cow up good," he says jokingly. "Now everybody in Germany has heard of our beautiful commune."

"It's unbelievable how famous she's become — for sure nobody would dare shoot her now," says Märkl.

A TV team is setting up near the volunteer fire department to interview an animal conservationist for the late news, and the Volkswagen Tiguan belonging to the manager of an animal rescue farm, Gut Aiderbichl, in nearby Deggendorf has become the informal press headquarters for the cow story. Every 15 minutes or so, he gives phone interviews on his mobile, and every hour takes journalists hoping to get a look at Yvonne up into the woods. He's also general search coordinator.

"Yvonne knows exactly what she's doing, and she's tricking us," he says.

So far, Yvonne has proven very canny, resisting food traps and visits by another cow, Waltraud, and a calf, Waldi.

On Tuesday, locals built a shelter for Yvonne so she would be sheltered from rain and comfortable. Now, Ernst, a bull from Gut Aiderbichl, is due to be trucked in. Latest reports are that Ernst is actually an ox, and that the former stud has since been castrated. Not important, says a local expert — a love relationship can still build between them, and plans are afoot to truck them both back to Gut Aiderbichl so they can be together.

"He's fantastic, a real dazzler," says a local of Ernst. It's hoped that Yvonne will think so too.

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