Would it survive?

Published: Wednesday, 04 August 2010

MOST regular boaters must have seen cows in the waterway from time to time, but would this one survive?

Well not the start we expected to a leisurely Sunday morning cruising from Braunston to Napton Junction on the Grand Union/Oxford canal, writes Andy Raine.

Distressed and struggling

Around 10.00am, between bridge 103 & bridge 104, we were flagged to slow by nb Harold—we spotted a cow in the canal on the off-side. The cow was clearly distressed and struggling to keep it's head above water.  A number of other cows looked on, but obviously we were concerned for its wellbeing and duly called 999 for the Fire Brigade.

As we waited for them to arrive, the cow suddenly moved further into the water, at times going under and eventually struggled across the canal to the towpath side. The owners of Harold and ourselves together managed to loop a mooring rope around its neck to try and keep its head above the water and also calm it as much as we could!

Boats queing

By this time further narrowboats were queuing behind us and one of the boaters went to bridge 104 to stop boats coming down—by the end there were in excess on 15 boats behind us and I think around six boats from the other direction.  True to the spirit of boaters, they were coming down to offer help.

The Warwickshire Fire Brigade duly arrived and after surveying the scene, their chief (chap called Andy in a white helmet) radioed they would need to use their inflatable dinghy and also some of the crew should go to the off-side bank. We continued to hold the cow on the towpath side, although at times she seemed to want to swim back to the off-side, but was extremely exhausted.

The dinghy arrived with two firemen in it and they managed to tie another rope to the mooring one we were using to hold her head up and they then hauled the rope and the cow to the off-side bank where she had entered the water—it was certainly shallower at that side.

We wedged our boat across the canal for the firemen to use to get to the other side—unfortunately I didn't manage to get a picture of the firemen crossing the roof!


The cow though thoroughly exhausted was hauled out of the water by 12 firemen in total (three local crews) using two harnesses around her body—a huge cheer and round of applause went up by the now quite sizeable crowd of boaters as she was safely hauled on to 'dry land'.

Eventually after resting and with the help of the firemen they moved the cow onto it's front legs and then after another rest, and to much relief of the boating audience, she staggered to her feet and then some of the firemen walked with her to safety further up the field. We understand they called for a local  vet to come and just review her after her 'little swim'.

Many thanks to the crew from Harold and other boaters—without whose help we would not have had a positive outcome.

Apparently this was the third animal rescue for the brigade this weekend—another one for a cow and also one for a sheep.

Andy & Nikki Raine, nb Yorkshire Pudding.