By in Animals

Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day -- Wild Charolais Cattle of Venezuela

I find a lot of inspiration for writing in photographs, and Wikimedia Commons, one of my favorite sites for free-use pictures, features a "Picture of the Day"--a variety of subjects, but always stunning photography. I decided to let these pictures inspire some of my posts.

The photo, above, is captioned "Feral Charolais bull at 4600 meters above sea level, in Sierra Nevada de Mérida, Venezuela." It's a beautiful picture, but it was also interesting to learn that there are actually feral cattle somewhere. I'd heard of wild horses, burros, and goats, but I always thought cattle were completely domesticated. How would an animal that I always pictured as being a bit slow and lumbering escape the predator animals roaming the wild? Wolves? Mountain lions? I had to investigate.

My trusty research tool, Wikipedia, was my next stop. I learned a bit about Charolais cattle, a large breed of beef cattle from France, but the only thing offered about the wild ones was this line: "In Sierra Nevada de Mérida, Venezuela, following the rural flight of farmers, many Charolais cattle were abandoned; they have survived in the wild feeding on Espeletia schultzii, a high altitude shrub." The photo from Wikimedia Commons was there to illustrate.

Well, that told me how they got there. Sounds like the farmers fell on hard times, leaving their livestock to fend for themselves. Apparently, they have found an acceptable food source. But how do the wild Charolais cattle avoid predation? The cattle item wasn't the right place to look, so I searched "predator species of Venezuela". Turns out the two most formidable predators in Venezuela are the jaguar and the crocodile. The jaguar ranges over different areas, but vastly prefers rain forest, and crocodiles are aquatic species--not much of a threat on the mountaintops. I searched to find out if there were wolves in Venezuela, but it looks like the only wolf in the entire continent of South America is the maned wolf, which is actually a large fox. Except for having to eat scrubby mountain shrubs, it looks like those cows have it made.

I learned something else when I was searching "wild cattle". There are actually feral cattle right here in the United States. A lot of ranchers graze their cattle on federal lands, and sometimes those cows get loose and roam about. I found an item about cows running wild in Chino Hills State Park, in California, and scaring hikers. Who knew we would learn all this just from looking at the Picture of the Day?

More picture-inspired articles:

Image Credit »,_Sierra_Nevada,_Venezuela.jpg

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MelissaE wrote on February 17, 2015, 9:35 PM

This is an interesting article. Thank you so much. I'm sharing on TSU.

bestwriter wrote on February 17, 2015, 9:55 PM

When one is left to fend for themselves this is what happens. Feral cattle proved that to you. Lovely picture. I did not know wikipedia commons had picture of the day. I must remember that.

iamshane487 wrote on February 17, 2015, 11:53 PM

i don't know that so let me try instead of pixabay ?

Wordsmith wrote on February 18, 2015, 1:26 AM

I believe Wikimedia is more complicated to use than Pixabay bcz they require that the person using images posted on that site to credit the image taker and even go so far as for the user of such to post a link to the creator of the image on the Wiki site. This just burns up more of my time which I consider precious and valuable. Any of you writers care to comment on this?

crowntower wrote on February 18, 2015, 4:38 AM

I hope there are all safe. I watched a lot of it in discovery channel and it is not so nice a poor wicked innocent deer or rabbit being beaten and ate by the much stronger predators! That is so sad.

Hollyhocks100 wrote on February 18, 2015, 10:15 AM

Great post. I used to use Wikimedia commons a lot, but then they changed it and I found it very poor following those changes, not nearly as many pictures as before when searching for just the right one.

AliCanary wrote on February 18, 2015, 5:03 PM

Thanks very much!

AliCanary wrote on February 18, 2015, 5:04 PM

They have some great photos, but you do have to read the licensing info carefully--they aren't all free to use, so caveat emptor.

AliCanary wrote on February 18, 2015, 5:05 PM

It's a great site, but it's different from Pixabay, where all the pictures are free to use. The pictures on Wikimedia Commons are sometimes free and sometimes copyright-protected.

AliCanary wrote on February 18, 2015, 5:06 PM

Oh, they're WAY more complicated. However, it's a much better resource is you have to find something specific, like a picture of a celebrity or historical figure or place.

AliCanary wrote on February 18, 2015, 5:07 PM

Well, they have to survive, so they are just doing what they are supposed to do. That's why rabbits have so many babies and predators don't.

AliCanary wrote on February 18, 2015, 5:08 PM

(It makes me sad, too, though!)

AliCanary wrote on February 18, 2015, 5:09 PM

It's true--it did get a little annoying. I go to Pixabay unless I need something specific, in which case WIki Commons is definitely still the best!

bestwriter wrote on February 18, 2015, 5:58 PM

Wikipedia commons is where I always go but I did not know they had one for the day.

nbaquero wrote on February 20, 2015, 1:28 PM

OK, I did leave a comment for you here... but I guess it was my imagination AliCanary anyway, great investigative work you did there, I am sure my country, which is Venezuela's neighbor should have some of these feral cattle as well.

AliCanary wrote on February 20, 2015, 3:48 PM

Just watch out for the jaguars, crocodiles and maned wolves! Well, the maned wolves sound kinda cute, actually.

GemOfAGirl wrote on February 22, 2015, 1:40 PM

I also enjoy the Wikipedia and Wikipedia Commons pictures of the day (as well as NASA's and National Geographic's). But, my attention is usually grabbed more by photos that are architecturally interesting or historical in nature. I had no idea about the feral cows in California, and Chino Hills State Park isn't that far from the route I used to drive to visit my sister. Interesting.