There is something so lovable about cows. Those soft, peaceful eyes draw you in to a world where all, and yet nothing in particular, is worth staring at. They are the champions of cheese, where it begins with their steady, hard-at-work chewing the cud.
But where did our relationship with cows begin? The wild ancestor of the domesticated cow is the ‘auroch’ (Bos primigenius), big beasts that were found in Asia, North Africa, and Europe. They had huge horns and stood up to 1.8 m at the shoulder. Domestication began about 8,500 years ago and through time they were bred and interbred based on survival traits.
In the 21st century we now see immense variation between breeds. Colors range from pure white to pure black, through shades of yellow, red, and brown. Overall size can also vary significantly. Dairy cows tend to look skinny, even bony, and wedge-shaped (narrower at the front when viewed from either side or above). As well, different breeds actually have different chemical compositions to their milk. The Jersey, which is significantly smaller than the Holstein, produces milk with a much higher butterfat (up to 5.3 percent), … great for making creamy, oozy cheeses, but not as suited for longer-aged, drier ones. Holsteins produce much more milk by volume but it is substantially lower in butterfat (3.6 percent).
Location and environment also have much to do with the qualities of the milk cows produce.This can reflect the vegetation, climate, and season. As such, many AOC cheeses have strict laws that dictate the specific breed of cow and the region it is grazed in, etc. In this way, the relationship between milk and pasture is very much like wine grape varietals and vintages.
We invite you to take an off-the-beaten-path country drive, and to stop if you see a herd of dairy cows. Take in their catwalk gait and their dreamy gaze. You may find you can sit there for a lot longer than expected … and surprisingly, the whole world will seem calm.
La Jolie Cheese Shop has new friends looking for homes. For little (or big) cow-lovers, we introduce the famous HANSA toy cows. Drop by and see if they don’t steal your heart too!