@hanney_simpson’s Instagram account is almost exactly what you would expect from your average 18-year-old girl- 60+ posts of her riding a cow bareback in the New Zealand countryside. While Hannah Simpson’s own Instagram has around 13,000 followers, a video of her riding her dairy cow, Lilac, has been circulating around Facebook that has garnered more than 4 million views.
Why might an 18-year-old girl from New Zealand be riding around on a cow, you might ask? Well, 7 years ago, like most other 11-year-old girls, she wanted a pony. And, like most other parents, they couldn’t afford a pony (not in this global economy!). So with the help of her brother, she discovered an unorthodox substitute: her family’s dairy cow.
She tells The Guardian “It was a dare from my brother to jump on and she seemed OK with it so we kept going. Before then I’d only ridden a pony twice, and a sheep.” (For those reading, make sure you always have consent from your cows BEFORE you ride them!) 8 years later, they are “best friends.”
In fact, when Hannah finally did get her pony (in 2014) that she had so desperately desired, she found that she didn’t even want to ride one anymore. Hannah says that Lilac “…is more special than a horse, more rare.” She prefers riding Lilac to riding a horse, but “doesn’t need to compete” and has no plans to ride professionally or participate in show-jumping events. Hannah has attempted to train other cows to ride, but apparently none were “special enough” to ride.
So what makes Lilac so special? The cow can vault an impressive 4 and a half feet - but only when she feels like it.
“I have always loved jumping, I always wanted to do show-jumping on a horse,” said Simpson. “And Lilac was always jumping out of the cow shed when she was young so I think she likes it, too. We started her off with stepping over logs and it just got bigger and bigger.”
Some current research suggests that cows possess extremely sophisticated cognitive abilities, including spatial reasoning and complex problem solving, so it isn’t surprising to see a cow being trained to perform highly difficult tasks such as riding.
The duo have been together now for almost 8 years, reflecting Hannah’s dedication to training and perfecting her riding technique. Hannah rides bareback with only a halter because her beloved cow doesn’t like horse saddles. Lilac enjoys bush walks, long river swims, and jumping more than cantering or hills. “She is a cow and I can’t expect her to ride like a horse. Without a bit of prodding she wouldn’t really do anything, she has a very chilled-out nature.”
The occasional buck is to be expected, and Hannah says she’s been thrown off many times, but that won’t stop her from riding off into the Kiwi sunset for years to come.
Credit: Getty Images