Herd work in cutting, reined cow horse, ranch cutting, etc., always involves describing cattle. 

There you are, walking your horse up through the cattle. You see cattle moving all around you. You’re trying to make sense of it all in the heat of the moment. Of course, you want to make the best decision possible. 

Often times your helpers are talking to you about which cow to cut “if it works out” and which cow to avoid. 

And then, when you combine your excited state of wanting to do the right thing (and not being sure) with listening to your helpers speak in what sounds like a foreign language, things can get a little hairy. 

This is the first in a series of articles about describing cattle. My intention is to provide you with ways to decipher the lingo of your herd help. 

In this article, I start by describing a cow’s head using these possible parameters: color, head shape, poll, ears, eyes, and distinguishing characteristics. I’m going to walk you through three different cow face examples. I’ll use whichever of our parameters most apply (as would your helpers). 

Please know, too, that the language of cattle description is far from universal. Each helper describes cattle in their own way. Typically, however, most helpers begin by noting the breed and/or color of the cow they’re describing.

Color:
“Black baldy” … the face is all white except for the black marking under the left eye (as contrasted to multiple colors at other parts of the face, which is called “mott” or “brockle face”).

Poll:
Half white/half black … half and half “fluffy swirl” 

Ears:
“Small-eared” … white in the ears (highlights) … turquoise ear tag with #1

Eyes:
Black “teardrop” (as contrasted to “rings” that encircle the entire eye) … white eyelashes … rub mark above and under the right eye

Color:
“Black mott” … medium star (referring to the size of a white shape in the forehead) or maybe heart head … also, “brown beard”

Head shape:
Small, “baby faced”

Ears:
“Airplane ears” (extend to the side) … yellow #30 tag in the left ear 

Distinguishing Characteristics:
Black-nose

Color: 
Red/Orange 

Head shape: 
Classic Limousin breed head shape … wide forehead … box-like

Poll:

Rounded with “bangs”

Ears:

Short

Eyes: 

Light around the eyes (if you had a group of all Limousins, the rather obscure pink skin “rectangle” under the left eye might be noted to distinguish him from the others)

Distinguishing Characteristics: 

Huge cow-lick/swirl in the middle of the forehead … light nose

Final Thoughts:

Describing cattle takes practice, and again, it’s not a perfect science.

I suggest that you get an order to the sequence as you describe their characteristics as noted above (breed and color first, for example) and go from there. 

Have fun with this! Gather a group of friends. During the open class, for example, begin to describe cattle physically as they are being settled. Make it a learning game. 

Then, if you can hear the herd helpers in the bleachers as the open riders show, listen to their descriptions, too. The more you observe and practice, the more comfortable you will become.