Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.


With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I’d like to take some time to celebrate all the four-legged moms out there.

Large animal vets spend a lot of time with four-legged mothers — first trying to get them pregnant, then keeping them healthy during pregnancy, then helping them deliver, then trying to get them pregnant again. This is quite a dichotomy from the small animal world, where the goal is usually not to let your dog or cat become a mother. But then again, many of my patients are part of the food chain.

I am always delighted by the way a vast majority of domesticated animals still retain excellent maternal instincts. To me, the first time a heifer has a calf and she actually knows what to do with it is amazing! I’m always in awe of Mother Nature and her gift of innate instinct. Seeing a new mother take care of her newborn never gets old (but has often made me late for my next appointment).

So, here are some specifics on why all those large, four-legged moms out there need to be celebrated:

  1. Horses: A female horse is called a mare. A baby horse of either gender is a foal, but if you want to get more specific, a male foal is a colt and a female foal is a filly. When foals are born they remind me of spiders, as their legs are so disproportionally long in relation to the rest of their body. They can take almost an hour to actually stand for the first time, and during the first few days, those legs often get tied in knots as they bump around, fall into their mother, and generally act like a mobile collision course. But mares take this all in stride, rarely getting impatient, never leaving their foals in search of greener pasture, and being remarkably careful around these delicate beings. So, let’s hear it for the mares!
  2. Sheep: Let’s face it; sheep are not the brightest crayons in the box. But I love sheep dearly, and the way an ewe (female sheep) nickers to her lambs is just one of the nicest, most innocent, and kindly sounds you will ever hear. Sheep are also a most delectable prey animal, as they have hardly any means of defending themselves, but this doesn’t stop the ewe. These creatures have such an endearing way of saying, "Oh, no you didn’t!" by stamping their feet. If an ewe is cornered and feeling threatened, she will take a front foot and stamp it as hard as she can. I can just see her putting her hands on her hips and shaking her finger at me, saying, "Don’t you come any closer! Don’t make me stamp this foot!" When really pressed, some ewes will actually resort to force and butt you. But at that point, you probably deserve it.
  3. Cows: Cows (called heifers before they have their first calf) can be wonderful mothers and can be very protective of their calves. Many a time I’ve been warned by vet school professors and farmers alike to never get between a cow and her calf, and believe me — I won’t! I promise! Cows are also extremely stoic. I’ve been privy to numerous calvings that weren’t exactly the easiest births by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve been amazed at the number of cows that remain standing at the end of a difficult birth, exhausted and breathing hard, but that still go straight to their calves once it’s all over and get straight into Good Mom Mode, cleaning and getting their little ones up to nurse.

So, here’s to all the mommas out there, both two-legged, four-legged, and what the heck — winged and non-legged too. We love you!

Dr. Anna O’Brien

Image: Condor 36 / via Shutterstock

Comments  2

Leave Comment
  • Large Animal Births
    05/11/2012 07:46am

    I've heard amazing stories about vets helping large animals with difficult births. There are surely a lot of things that can go wrong and any attending vet has to be ready for many things.

    Lets not just hear it for the mommas, but also for the vets that care for them!

  • Celebrate Mother Nature
    05/06/2015 11:43am

    Celebrate Mother Nature. Nature is amazing and everyone is so busy staring at the cell phones and not looking at the sky to see what is happening to our world. Not only are Mother Nature's creatures at risk so are the humans.

    Protect nature around you. Protect your parks. Order your city, county and state for more parks for mother nature.

    Not only are there farm animal mothers, there are many animals loosing natural places to live to raise their families. Get off your cell phone and take your dog to natural trails, meadows and beaches to enjoy nature.

    Everyone lives in a virtual world, no longer noticing what is happening to nature.

    Parks are in danger. Many preserves and parks are having the trees sold off as lumber, taking away mother animal's homes to raise their babies.

    Many gov officials sell off the trees for personal benefit and even find sneaky ways to sell off parks for development. It is happening here and everywhere.

    Please use your local parks. Plant trees in your yard and in the parks for cleaner air produced by the trees and homes for animals to live in, around and under the trees. Plant Oaks for acorns to feed many animals and to offer shelter. Plant any type of nut trees to feed the animals. Plant fruit trees to feed many animals. Plant flowering trees to feed the bees and butterflies.

    Be mindful. We are loosing parks and preserves as gov officials are quietly planning to see the trees as lumber and to quietly sell of the land to developers. This is happening right now to many parks and preserves across our country.

    Join together with others that want to preserve nature, the environment, the wild animals, hikers, horseback riders, dog walkers, kayakers, birders, photographers and all that care about mother nature.

    The gov is setting up agendas to get rid of the parks and preserves.

    Get out there and use your local parks on your days off or after work.
    Have picnics and hikes at your local parks.

    Be aware to save your parks from destruction and elimination.

    We must come together to save Mother Nature and all the mothers that live in mother nature and to preserve our own sanity by having natural places to enrich our selves in nature.

Meet The Vets