Roaming bull receives last-minute reprieve

Owner claims animal, held by Humane Society, at processor

September 03, 2005|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Saved at the 11th hour, a one-ton Black Angus bull is back home, grazing peacefully at a Carroll County farm after a monthlong pilgrimage.

Big Boy narrowly missed the butcher's block last week, when a Westminster farm found its herd minus its biggest bull. Todd Langkam made a mad dash to the meat processor to reclaim the animal after the bull's three-week stay at the Humane Society.

"They had him in a pen, and I know he was thinking, `Uh-oh,'" said Langkam, who owns Hoke's Homestead outside Westminster with his sister and brother-in-law, Robin and Raymond Wike. "I bailed him out."

The bull reportedly was to be turned into hamburger for a local food bank, but his owner saved him in time. Bail was nearly $300, paid to the Carroll County Humane Society for food and board - not to mention search and rescue.

Big Boy, distinguished by his heft and the brass ring in his nose, wandered off the 100-acre homestead early last month.

"We think he might have just stepped over the fence," said Robin Wike. "We had put him out to pasture with the cows weeks ago, which is not unusual this time of year."

His first recorded stop was Aug. 2 at a neighbor's cattle spread, where Calvin Brothers encountered him grazing in his front yard and ogling his heifers.

Brothers called the Humane Society, who moved the bull to the animal shelter in Westminster. Officers noted how docile and easy to load he was.

That's because Big Boy is no stranger to truck rides, said Langkam, who frequently lends the prolific animal out to herds belonging to friends and family. The 6-year-old bull has sired at least 400 calves, Langkam estimated conservatively.

Carolyn "Nicky" Ratliff, Humane Society director, assumed someone would claim the animal because it is worth about $1,000. Her staff checked with area farmers and the county farm office and advertised in local papers. Mid-search one morning, they found their pasture devoid of the bull.

"This boy just won't stay put," Ratliff said.

Animal control officers found him a few days later mingling with a herd of heifers. They expect progeny next year, the officers said.

Back at the shelter, behind a reinforced fence, Big Boy whiled away the hours and the staff made final attempts to find the owner.

"I just can't imagine not claiming a 2,000-pound animal," said Ratliff, who frequently reunites errant livestock with owners. "Somebody even claimed a tarantula from us."

Stymied workers went door to door in the North Carroll neighborhood, even stopping at Hoke's Homestead Aug. 23.

But Langkam was harvesting field crops and no one else was home, Robin Wike said.

A county roads crew notified her about a break in the farm's fence two days later and that prompted a cow round-up. That's when they discovered Big Boy was missing.

"We just assumed that he had wandered into the woods and would come back to be with the cows," she said.

Langkam scoured the cornfield and woods, hollering "Big Boy." "He didn't moo back like he usually does," he said.

While buying some produce from Brothers' farm stand, Wike lamented the loss of the bull. Brothers said he had a roving bull in his yard and had called the Humane Society.

"I panicked," she said. "They let me use their phone to call the Humane Society."

By then Big Boy was headed for his last round-up. The Humane Society, who legally owned the animal at that point, had donated him to a local food bank, which expected about 1,400 pounds of hamburger.

"He was legally ours, but, if an owner comes forward, I won't stand on a technicality," Ratliff said. "Trouble is it's hard to ask for specifics on ownership for a cow. Who takes pictures of a bull or has vet statistics?"

The owners mentioned size and the brass ring, so the society released the bull to them. Fortunately for Big Boy, the butcher was busy. Langkam reclaimed him Aug. 26 and trucked him back to the farm.

"I can't believe they were gonna give my bull to the homeless," Langkam said. "At least, he would have gone for a good cause."

But Big Boy's days on the farm are numbered.

"He is so big, too big for our other animals, that we were fixing to get rid of him," Wike said. "He is a good-looking bull and will bring a good price at auction."

"At least now, he is well-known," said Langkam, who figured the bull "overheard us talking about the future and decided to get out of Dodge early."

Wike added, "We didn't give him permission. He just decided to go."

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