The Cow that Swam the Fraser River and Lived

August 2, 1996, Southam Newspapers, Vancouver¬†”

When a blind cow went missing from the Rosebank Ranch, owner Liz Allen figured the beast had been swallowed up by the Fraser River. But Rosebank Rosie went through hell – Hell’s Gate canyon, to be specific-and lived to tell the tale. It’s a tall one. The Fraser River flows past the Allens’ pastures on its way south to Lytton, B.C., about 250 kilometers northeast of Vancouver, where it cuts a violent path through the Coast Range. On July 19, Allen saw a hole in her fence and found the cow’s lonely calf. She saw cow tracks near the river at a spot where a camper had brought his hounds the night before. She saw dog tracks where the beast had been driven down an embankment into the Fraser’s swift-flowing waters. But she saw no cow.¬† “If it hadn’t been for those damn dogs, she would have come back home,” said Allen. But she and her husband Ken never gave up hope for Rosebank Rosie. That’s because they had developed a soft spot for the two-year old cow, ever since Rosie started “acting strange and bumping into things” last fall, said Allen. Rosie went blind after chewing on an old battery she found in the forest — lead poisoning, said her veterinarian. On July 21, operators of a cable ferry in Lytton spotted what they thought was cow bobbing past them down the river. The beast was headed straight for hell, and moving too quickly to be roped. Nobody gave Rosie much chance of surviving Hell’s Gate canyon, where 900,000,000 litres of water crush through the 34 metre wide gorge every minute. Brian Mckinney, whose family operates a tourist tram across the gorge, said Hell’s Gate is no place for a cow. “I’ve seen timbers 30 feet in height get tossed around like toothpicks in that gorge and come shooting out of there 20 feet in the air.” But Mckinney was flagged down on a bridge just south of Hell’s Gate on his way to work July 26. A man was waving his arms and yelling for him to call the police. McKinney was sure it was another bridge jumper. “I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was this beef cow standing on the river bank., She has somehow paddled her way to the bank and was standing half on the rocks, with nothing but 90-degree cliffs all around her.” said Mckinney. “That damn cow’s got nine lives.” Rosie was lassoed and hauled to safety through the combined efforts of three government agencies and one local hobby farmer: Howard Johnson told the Bridge River-Lillooet News that it took four hours to drag the cow up the river bank. After a week and 100 kilometers in the bone-splitting Fraser Canyon. Rosie had lost 100 pounds but was unhurt. She’s now home with her calf and a case of the sniffles, but she remains a tad disoriented, said Allen. Paul Hunter, a veterinarian from nearby Cache Creek, said cows aren’t usually good swimmers. He said there was no easy explanation for Rosie’s successful run of a river that has claimed the lives of cows, dogs and people. “Just a lucky cow, I guess.” But one of Rosies’ rescuers says that her feat isn’t raising too many eyebrows in B.C.’s Cariboo region. Boston Bar RCMP Constable Greg Okell said that a couple of cows hop in the river every year. “You’d think they can’t swim but cows float quite well.”