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Swedish study proves it's time for animals to step off the gas

January 31, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

If you have ever wondered how much a cow burps during the course of a day, you are not alone. You should be - as in padded-cell alone - but you are not.

For company, you have Swedish University, which just received a $590,000 grant to "measure the greenhouse gases released when cows belch," according to the Associated Press.

This is depressing. It shows just far we have fallen under the failed Bush presidency. It is a sad day indeed when other nations of the world pass the United States in the never-ending quest to pass out federal cash for frivolous studies.

It's not news that cattle produce methane, although we've usually thought of it coming at the other end of the spectrum, so to speak. But the Swedes say that "95 percent of the methane released by cows comes out through the mouth."


So about 20 cows (who's going to lead that cattle drive, Wyatt Urp?) will be fed varying diets and wear a special collar to measure the methane production.

The purpose of this study isn't clearly stated. Are they going the alternate-energy-source route or the cutback-on-harmful-emissions route?

What if it comes down to a matter of destroying all of the cows in order to save the planet from coastal flooding? I know where I stand. I can do without New York City before I can do without New York Strip.

And if the cattle are that large a contributor to greenhouse gases, maybe the animals can be fitted with cowtalytic converters.

But seriously.

Hopefully, Swedish University will not find out about the bouvier des Flandres named Opie who, sad to say, is about 30 percent dog and 70 percent frat boy.

As is the case with many males, he thinks the standard belch is just about the funniest thing that has ever been invented for man or beast. After a meal, he'll jog happily over to the dainty Siamese cat Juliet, get right in her face and let rip with a healthy "Rrourrp."

Juliet, a princess among cats, will squeeze her eyes to slits and stalk off, viewing the dog with even more disgust than usual. Which, of course, is the point. Opie will prance, toss his head and laugh, ha ha ha, at his primitive little joke, only inspired by the fact that we, laughing through our teeth, are telling him "bad dog."

The animal also is encouraged by the fact that occasionally, not often, but once in a great, great while, I will - practically never, you understand - issue forth with an esophageal eructation of my own.

Opie loves this because he sees it as a male, human/canine bond of some sick sort. Again, he will toss his head and laugh, ho ho ho, and prance around the room with an unmistakable, "good one, dad," countenance.

Then, he will try to match it with one of his own, and turn an already sorry state of affairs up a notch with this game of his known as "belch tag" in which he will run up, burp on someone and run off, expecting the victim to try to chase him down and return the favor.

When I can bear to reflect on this at all - that here, a grown 47-year-old man could possibly find himself mixed up in a belching contest with a dog - it darkens my mood considerably.

Were it just a once-in-a-while occurrence, it might be tolerable. It might even be cute. But it happens with such frequency that I expect that at any moment, Opie might get a visit from Al Gore.

Hannah the bulldog stays out of it as much as she can, but then she has her own issues. Bulldogs, I have learned, are blessed with what is charitably known as "an active digestive tract," which is code for the unpleasant fact that their owners are routinely enveloped with bilious clouds of mustard gas that would have brought the British to their knees at the Hindenburg Line.

It's quite a one-two methane punch, all told. I don't need a Swedish study to tell me that if the ice caps melt, it is probably all my fault.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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