PEDANTRY

BOVINE ANATOMICAL CORRECTNESS: A VEXED DIATRIBE

I was sitting down the other day, watching some television with my children. A cartoon was on, and as I watched I realised a terrible, terrible thing. The cow—let’s call her Annabelle—had fingers! Four of them on each hand.

Now I understand that cartoons are meant to stretch reality. They allow us scenarios and characters which would be impossible in real life. I can handle many an implausibility [1] —but anatomical incorrectness?  Never!

Bovines are ungulates—hooved mammals—and in the case of cattle, there are two hooves per foot. As can be appreciated from the accompanying anatomical diagram, hooves are intricate arrangements, whose horny coverings protect the structures within. [2] Hooves allow cattle to walk over all sorts of terrain, from the grassed mountains of the Alps to the concreted streets of a suburban jungle, all the while supporting hundreds of kilograms in weight.

Bovine forefoot by Z Vogels, 2014.

Bovine forefoot by Z Vogels, 2014.

Going back to Annabelle, what could the animator do to correct this untenable situation? Why, just divide by two. A cow can still do amazing things with two hooves. In one animated movie, three cows chase down and capture an Evil Bad Guy, saving their farm from foreclosure. They race through abandoned mines and drive a train, all with the correct number of digits. [3]

As these feelings of indignation were going through my head, I had a flashback to another travesty of cartooning. And this movie quite deservedly must be named and shamed.

Barnyard. [4]

While it is true to say I haven’t watched the entire movie, the snippets I have seen are enough to convince me to boycott it forever. I will NEVER watch such a hideous example of anatomical inaccuracy.

‘A movie about a barnyard? How can that be so bad?’ you ask.

Well never fear, dear, reader, I will tell you. The lead protagonist is a male bovine, named Otis. And he has an udder. Let me write that again, but in capitals: THE LEAD PROTAGONIST IS A MALE BOVINE AND HE HAS AN UDDER. A total implausibility.

‘But…’ you might say, ‘…what option did the animators have?’

Many options, gosh darn it. First off, if they wanted him to be a boy, they should have animated him as such: drawn in a scrotum—with resident testicles—and a prepuce. Easy. And if these were considered inappropriate for the target audience—they could have just made him a steer.

‘!!!!’ I hear you say.

Well then, they could always do what should have done in the first place and turned the hero into a heroine. Turned Otis into Otissa. Or Poppy or Buttercup—much better names for cows in my opinion. Then the udder can stay.

Cartoons come in a variety of topics and quality.  Many are mind-numbing, quasi-educational drivel, but some provide valuable experiences. They can help expand a child’s imagination [5], introduce them to music [6] or demonstrate the benefits of team work. [7] Cartoons can portray the countless social dilemmas that children will meet in real life and can help parents engage in conversations on such topics. They can also be just plain old fun. [8] Finally, cartoons can teach children about the biology of the world around us—and here, anatomical correctness is a must.

Z VOGELS, TIMBOON

  1. Case in point: Octonauts Captain Barnacles and Peso are a polar bear and a penguin. They are drawn at the same size, and also in the same location! Octonauts, 2010. Television series. Created by Vicki Wong & Michael C. Murphy. Brown Bag Films, UK.
  2. An accurate rendering of a bovine forefoot, by Z Vogels, 2014. The editors of CRANK did not ask for accurate drawings of a bovine udder, scrotum, testicles or prepuce, but the author may be willing to provide them on request.
  3. Home on the Range, 2004. Film. Directed by Will Finn and John Sanford. Walt Disney Pictures, USA.
  4. Barnyard, 2006. Film. Directed by Steve Oedekerk. Nickelodeon Movies/Paramount Pictures, USA.
  5. This one is a wonderful cartoon, jam-packed with imagination: Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, 2009. Television series. Created by Mark Baker & Neville Astley. Astley Baker Davies Ltd / Rubber Duck Entertainment, UK.
  6. Little Einsteins, 2005. Television series. Created by Eric Weiner & Olexa Hewryk. Curious Pictures/The Baby Einstein Company, Canada.
  7. Shaun the Sheep, 2007. Television series. Created by Nick Park. Aardman Animations, UK.
  8. Danger Mouse, 1981. Television series. Created by Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall. Thames Television, UK.
Otis the bull from Barnyard, udder out loud and proud.

Otis the bull from Barnyard, udder out loud and proud.

A force to be reckoned with: one of the (correctly hooved) cows from Disney’s Home on the Range.

A force to be reckoned with: one of the (correctly hooved) cows from Disney’s Home on the Range.

Let us not think too closely about what Disney’s Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow and Mickey Mouse might be doing or about to do in this early drawing and concentrate instead on their anatomy. Clarabelle herself does appear to have the correct number of hooves, though Horace the horse (Clara’s fiancé) has many more digits than necessary.

Let us not think too closely about what Disney’s Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow and Mickey Mouse might be doing or about to do in this early drawing and concentrate instead on their anatomy. Clarabelle herself does appear to have the correct number of hooves, though Horace the horse (Clara’s fiancé) has many more digits than necessary.

In more recent times Clarabelle has grown extra and unneccesary digits, at least on her forelegs, further proof of the depravations of our modern times. (All images stolen from the internet).

In more recent times Clarabelle has grown extra and unneccesary digits, at least on her forelegs, further proof of the depravations of our modern times. (All images stolen from the internet).