Explore around Angkor Wat and Siem Reap hotels, and you will likely see lots of gorgeous white cows. These are called Brahman cows. They’re actually a mix between four types of cattle from India and were originally bred in the United States. Personally, I think they look like a mix between a lop-eared rabbit, a deer and a cow- so cute!
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The breed is known for its excellent quality of beef and also its ability to tolerate heat and thrive in hot climates. An oily skin and short coat makes them remarkably resistant to ticks and other biting insects- and as a result less susceptible to diseases. Perfect for the hot, swampy rural areas of Cambodia.
There are around 3.5 million Brahman cows in Cambodia, 70 percent are used for farming and the remainder for beef.
Around Siem Reap hotels, it’s common to see one or two of these cows harnessed to a plough, tilling the fields.
Unlike a tractor, these animals can easily move through the marshy, muddy wet fields and not get stuck. Adult bulls weigh around 2000 pounds and cows 1400 pounds. The calves are small at birth, weighing 60 to 65 pounds.
Although appearing docile, be wary as they can give you a good kick and are very strong if you get too close. Mothers can be extremely protective of their calves, so be cautious when they have babies around.
These cows have very long lives and it isn’t uncommon for them to live to 17 or 18 years old, and still be having calves at 15.
(If you want to explore around Siem Reap hotels by bicycle, have a read of my last post about biking around Siem Reap.)
Exploring Around Baby Elephant and Siem Reap Hotels
An easy bike ride from the Baby Elephant hotel, up Night Market Road, you will discover verdant farmers fields and typical rural scenery – with lots of Brahman cows!
From Baby Elephant hotel, head down the dirt road and take a right onto the paved road. From here, merge onto the left hand fork (called Night Market Road). Ride on this road until you come to a main intersection. Carefully cross the intersection and the road again becomes red dirt.
Bike a few more kilometers up the road, until you see a pagoda on the left, turn left here and follow this dirt road all the way to the paved main road and the river. Turn left here, and loop back to Siem Reap on the paved main road. If you want less traffic, cross one of the walking bridges to the dirt track on the other side of the river, a bumpier ride – but far less traffic.
Cows for Cambodia
Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and many Cambodians earn less than $1US a day. Most families live in rural areas and are subsistence farmers, they rely on livestock and personal gardens to feed themselves.
Having a cow can be an asset in many ways – moving heavy loads, collecting water and tilling rice – not to mention the valuable meat an adult cow can provide a family. The average cost of a Brahman cow is $650US which means 80% of most Cambodian families can’t afford to buy one.
Recently, an interesting charity was created called Cows for Cambodia. This charity provides a pregnant cow to a family in need, allowing the family to keep the baby Brahman cow when it is born, returning the mother to the charity.
Of course, there is a strict requirement for the animals to be well cared for and the charity follows up regularly to ensure the health and well-being of the animals! A fantastic way to ensure these beautiful Brahman cows continue to be a valuable part of Cambodia’s rich cultural tapestry.