Cows swept out to sea by Hurricane Dorian found alive months later

Monica Danielle

"Cows can swim. They can't swim great, but they can swim," B.G. Horvat said. "They must have been fighting for their lives and really happy to find some land."

Horvat works at Cape Lookout National Seashore on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where three cows, believed to have been swept out to sea by Hurricane Dorian in early September, have been spotted by park employees.

Cows on Cedar Island, N.C., in 2017. Cows from the island were swept into the water during a surge from Hurricane Dorian on Sept. 6, 2019. (Rhonda Hunter Photography)

The cows were a part of a group of livestock that graze 1,000 acres of private land on Cedar Island and are tended to by locals. Paula D. O'Mally, who has photographed the cows in the past, emphasized on her Facebook photography page that "the cows are wild" and "have survived for decades without human intervention, they're pretty tough that way."

Tough indeed.

The hurricane struck North Carolina on Sept. 6 as a Category 1 storm and generated a massive wave that swept away nearly all 20 of the cows and 28 wild horses, yet these three survivors managed to swim to safety amid incredibly challenging conditions.

Cows on the beach at the end of Cedar Island on Sept. 5, 2019, the day before Hurricane Dorian hit the area. (Paula D. O'Malley)

As The Charlotte Observer reported, "The hurricane pushed water into coastal bays, creeks and rivers, and all that storm surge rushed back toward the Outer Banks as the winds shifted, experts say. The resulting wall of water hit not only Cedar Island, but caused devastating floods on Ocracoke Island and ripped up sections of the coastal highway, NC. 12."

Cows on the beach at the end of Cedar Island on Sept. 5, 2019, the day before Hurricane Dorian hit the area. (Paula D. O'Malley)

A storm surge that was a little over 9 feet rushed back out of the Neuse River and the Pamlico Sound into the ocean, Horvat told AccuWeather.

"When the water starts coming, it's not coming in huge waves but it's just coming and it's coming and it's surging and it's just relentless, and so that must've been incredible for the cows," Horvat said.

Horvat believes the cows made it to the park by swimming up to 4 miles in the storm surge across Core Sound. "It's extraordinary what they must have gone through," he marveled.

Horvat said the first cow was discovered on the North Core barrier island right after the storm. "Just finding a cow on North Core from our visitors and even our park staff as they worked was a wild moment." The other two arrived in the past two weeks and all three are now happily grazing the federal grass.

"They found each other... They are now together... They seem to be in good health," Horvat added.

He also reflected on the animals' extraordinary odyssey and survival. "If the cows could talk, imagine the story they can tell you of enduring that rush of water," he told The New York Times. "That must be incredible."

The cows' caretaker has identified them, and a group of people is formulating a plan to get the cattle back to Cedar Island.

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