Milking It

September 22, 2006

This puzzler has been sent to me via e-mail by approximately 3,000 different people: Who was it that first looked at a cow and said, "I think I’ll squeeze those dangly things and drink whatever comes out"? What this misses is that cows aren’t the only animals that get milked by people. Goats get milked. Buffaloes get milked. I’ve even had buffalo cheese. Oddly enough it tasted like cow cheese. I half expected it to taste like chicken.

But I digress. Sheep, reindeer, and even camels get milked. In some places people even milk yaks. Have you ever seen a yak? In some places "yak" is a synonym for "vomit". If you’ve ever seen a yak it wouldn’t surprise you that sometimes the two places overlap. If you’ve ever seen a yak, or a camel for that matter, then suddenly drinking cows’ milk doesn’t seem that strange. At least cows don’t spit like camels, and, unlike yaks, they’re not covered with long, stringy hair that’s hiding who knows what kinds of bizarre parasites. My grandfather would never touch whipped cream because when he was a boy his family owned a cow that once ate onions before being milked. The milk, and the cream that came from it, tasted like onions. Given a choice between onion-flavored whipped cream, though, and anything that came out of a yak, I’d take ask for some strawberry shortcake with that whipped cream.

But I digress. People have been drinking milk for thousands of years, and the question of who first got the idea of milking cows isn’t nearly as interesting as the question of what other animals they tried before settling on a few select ruminants. All mammals produce milk for their young, so that includes dolphins, dogs, humpback whales, pangolins, platypuses, anteaters, rats, cats, lemurs, moles, voles, hyenas, and even tigers. Can you imagine trying to milk a tiger? It would certainly make the dairy industry more interesting, and you’d never have to worry about them eating onions.

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