It's not often that you catch a cow chewing on a large snake, but this is 2020, so anything's possible.
Andrew Gertz was driving down the Sandover Highway in the Northern Territory to work in Alice Springs. As he was passing by, he caught a rare and somewhat amusing sight.
Gertz, a refrigeration mechanic from Camooweal in Outback Queensland, first thought that the animal was chewing a bone or a stick.
But, after further inspections, Mr. Gertz took a picture. The cow then dropped Woma Python and continued uninjured, leaving the half-chewed snake behind.
How did the python get into the cow's mouth?
There's no certain way to explain the whole situation. Experts say it would appear that a phosphorus deficiency may have made the farm animal put the snake in its mouth.
Mr. Gertz tried to make sense out of it, as he starts his story:
I saw something hanging out of its mouth and I didn't really know what it was until I got closer and then I realized it's a Woma (python).
He continues, puzzled by the scene:
I've seen cattle chew on cowhides and dried out bones, but I've never seen them chew on a snake, especially fresh too like that.
He did offer one possible explanation:
I'm not sure how the snake would have ended up in the cow's mouth, there had been some rain ahead of us and I could see no tracks in the sand and road, so it wouldn't be that the snake was hit by a car and picked up on the road by the cow.
It could have bitten the cow's tongue, that could have been a possibility.
But, he still doesn't know the answer:
I showed my boss and the locals where I was going to, and most of them have lived in the Territory for years around cattle, and they haven't seen anything like it before.
Of course, Twitter was having a blast. Though, no one offered a logical explanation.
Even scientists are confused. They offer some explanations, but CQUniversity livestock researcher Dr. Diogo Costa says this is not normal behavior for a cow. The poor snake didn't seem to have a choice.
What was on the cow's mind?
Though farm animals and humans seem to share a close bond, which lasts for centuries, they still can surprise us.
Dr. Costa tried to rationalize the whole thing:
It's not normal animal behavior but phosphorous deficiencies can turn a cow as mad as a cut snake.
He continues by explaining the importance of phosphorous:
Along with calcium, phosphorous is one of the most plentiful minerals in a cow's body, and there are times in an animal's life where it may need more than normal - for example, a cow in lactation will have a higher requirement because of the P going to the milk, or a growing animal will have a higher requirement in comparison to one not putting on weight.
So, the snake was acting as a supplement:
There are many areas in northern Australia with very low levels of P in the soil, and this is why P supplementation is usually recommended during the wet season in northern Australia when animals start putting on more weight and their requirements increase.
Phosphorus is stored in the bones, and clinical P deficiency can result in health issues such as spontaneous fractures due to bones getting weaker or to reductions in fertility rate and weight gain.
The cow was acting on its primal instinct, but it's still quite strange.
As Dr. Costa concludes:
P deficiency can also lead to osteophagia (which can, in turn, lead to botulism) - osteophagia is the action of eating or chewing bone and one of the most common signs of acute P deficiency. This may well have been what that cow was doing when chewing on the snake.
And thus, we conclude this bizarre, creepy, yet amusing story. It seems like we underestimated cows and their survival instinct. Think about that the next time you order a steak.
Or, Andrew Gertz caught on camera what appears to be the smartest cow in the world.