Read how the cows gathered around in the last moments as protection, and with their own brand of care.
Cincinnati leap to freedom won hearts
Cincinnati Freedom, the fugitive cow who drew headlines around the world when she escaped from a slaughterhouse in Ohio in 2002 and eluded authorities for 11 days, has died at an animal sanctuary in New York.
The 2,000-pound white Charolais, "adopted" by internationally renowned artist Peter Max after her stirring escape in Cincinnati, was put down Dec. 29 at the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, N.Y., shortly after being diagnosed with spinal cancer.
The quickly spreading cancer, which becomes apparent in cows only when the size of the tumor puts pressure on the spine, caused the cow, who often was called Cinci or Freedom for short, to lose the use of her back legs.
The day before Cinci's death, Farm Sanctuary officials noticed her stumbling, and by the following day she was paralyzed and couldn't walk, said Susie Coston, the sanctuary's national shelter director.
Even so, Cinci, always shy around humans, tried to crawl away when a veterinarian arrived to examine her, Coston said.
Cinci's closest pals in the sanctuary's herd of about 50 cattle -- other slaughterhouse escapees that include Queenie from Queens, N.Y., Maxine from New York and Annie Dodge from Vermont -- were no more thrilled to see the vet and dented her car, Coston said.
The evening before, when her immobility kept Cinci in the pasture, her bovine buddies spent the night with her.
"She had some very good friends who were very protective of her," Coston said.
After the vet determined there was no hope Cinci would recover use of her legs, sanctuary officials decided to euthanize her.
Again, the herd surrounded Cinci, with one of the oldest steers, Kevin, licking her face, while Iris, an older female, licked her back in her final minutes, said Natalie Bowman, the sanctuary's communications director. They remained with Cinci until she was buried after initially chasing a worker, who had arrived to handle the task, back to his tractor.
"It was very moving," Coston said. "I've never seen anything like it. You really saw all those basic emotions at work."
Cinci became a folk hero in February 2002 when, moments before she was to be slaughtered, she jumped a 6-foot fence at Ken Meyer Meats in Cincinnati and evaded police and officials from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for a week and a half while foraging in Mount Storm Park.
News outlets from Canada, England, France, Germany and Australia covered the saga, which also repeatedly made the national news. Then-Mayor Charlie Luken pledged to give her a key to the city.
After her capture, Max, saying he was "very touched by this cow's run for freedom, for life," bought the animal from Meyer Meats and paid to send her to the sanctuary in upstate New York, where hundreds of animals rescued from slaughterhouses, stockyards and factory farms receive lifelong care.
Max named the cow Cincinnati Freedom. He also often called her Cindy Woo, Coston said.
Sanctuary officials were not certain of Cinci's age but estimate that she was 6 to 8 years old when she arrived in April 2002.
"That's a pretty good life for a Charolais," Coston said.
At the sanctuary, Cinci apparently found that it was more fun to eat when one did have not to worry any longer about being eaten herself, gaining more than 500 pounds.
"She was a bit of a chunk," Coston said, laughing. Still, to the end, Cinci could clear a 5-foot fence from a standstill, she said.
"It was an amazing thing to see," she said.
Something of a celebrity at the sanctuary, Cinci drew countless visitors familiar with her story.
"People from Ohio were always visiting," Bowman said.
Coston thinks she understands why.
"She symbolized the will to live, to enjoy life and not be messed with," Coston said. "We can relate to that."