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Cellos and Animals: Horses and Cows and Deer – Oh My!

This is Part III in our Cellos and Animals series. Part I about some of cellists’ best friends—dogs—is here, and Part II about playing the cello with birds is here.

Cellos and Animals Part III Horse and Cows and Deer Oh My (600 × 400 px)

Sometime last year, I put out a call for cello-lovers to send me their pet photos, anecdotes, and videos. Our Cello Museum family overwhelmed us with lovely photos of their pets. Stacey Krim, Curator of Manuscripts & Cello Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, also found us some amazing materials. We found additional photos and videos in the news and social media posts.

This third installment in the series is about cellists interacting with horses, deer, and cows. In the first part of this series, we saw some dogs like to “perform” with the cello but mostly they keep the cellists company while enjoying the music. In the second installment, we heard birds, vocalists of the natural world, interact with the sounds of the cello. In this third part, we see how these larger animals make attentive audience members and thoroughly enjoy cello music.

First, we turn to horses.

A Common Thread (or Horsehair!)

Except for those who use only synthetic hair, most cellists have an ongoing relationship with horses—or at least the hair from their tails. To learn more about cello bows, please see our bow series by Andrew Bellis.

What some may not consider is that horsehair is extremely valuable. There have been multiple horsehair thefts; in some cases, directly from the horses.

A Sad Tail – Horsehair Theft in North Carolina

Horse tails

Photo by May16th XD on Unsplash

In December 2020, the Nash County Sheriff’s Department reported that horsehair was being stolen directly from horses’ tails in Nashville, North Carolina. Are desperate cello bow rehairers working in the area? We don’t know the full tale yet; this information came to us from the Spring Hope Enterprise, a local newspaper.

Horsehair is used in many products, including:

baskets, belts, brushes of all types, carpet, cloth, curlers, fabrics, fishing lines, furniture padding, hats, lariats, fishing nets, jewelry, braided horse bridles, upholstery cloth, . . .whips and wigs, including extensions for humans and show horses, according to the Benton County Enterprise in Warsaw, Missouri, which reported on horse hair theft in 2017.

Why steal horsehair other than out of desperation for a rehair during the pandemic? Apparently, horsehair (from horsetails) sells for as much as $400-$500 per pound.

Now we turn to tales of cellists interacting with horses—and not just through the horsetails.

Unbridled Joy

Nancy Green (at age 15 or 16) riding her horse Sandy

The great recording artist and cello soloist Nancy Green loves horses. As a young woman of about 15 or 16, she spent many hours with her horse, Sandy (short for Sandpiper). One can see the same intensity, joy, and sense of oneness with Sandy in the photos of her with Sandy as we can see today in her YouTube videos where she is one with her cello. Although the photo is slightly faded, you can see Nancy and Sandy seem to fly over some lawn furniture:

Nancy Green riding Sandy

Pony Up to the Bach

Now we turn to horses interacting with cello music. Horses and ponies are drawn to the sound of cellist Adam Riggs playing Bach. In fact, they seem to vie with each other for the best place at the fence to enjoy the impromptu concert.


Matching Cello and Horses

These beautiful white horses are drawn to the music of the cellist playing on a white cello.

Mike Block Plays Cello on Horseback

To round out our section about horses and cellists, we turn back to Bach. This time, it is Mike Block playing the cello while sitting on a horse. We’re not sure this would work in a parade situation, but we admire Block’s innovation—and this enormous horse! The horse makes the cello look small!

Moo-ved by the Music

Now we turn to cows and cellos. While we have encountered many cellists who are outstanding in their field, not many have actually been out standing in a field with cows. However, there are a number of video examples of cellists interacting with and performing for cows. Let’s start with a couple of examples of cellists (intentionally) making mooing noises to communicate with cows.

Cow Moo-sic

In this first video, cellist Fredi Alberti plays for a very attentive cow, in a mix of tremolo and moo-ing. Is the cow trying to eat his cello?

In this next video, cellist Erik Nordstrom calls the cows over to where he is playing by making moo-ing noises. He calls this “The Arrival.”

In the second part of Nordstrom’s cow sequence, he continues his moo-ing sounds, and once he has his attentive bovine audience in place at about 1:47, he begins sharing cello music with them, playing a Swedish folk tune for them called “Have You Seen my Bell Cow?“. It looks as if they are familiar with this tune and are perhaps pondering the question. They are clearly interested and actively listening to the music.

Cow Concerts

Now we turn to less mooing and more moo-sical performances for cows. First, here is a performance by biologist, animal-welfarist, and passionate amateur cellist, Auri Forda. She has fast-forwarded some of her music, so that you can watch the cows come toward her as she plays.

I Herd That!

In this second example, a cellist plays excerpts of Haydn and Bach for a rapt herd of cows.

Concerts for Cows: Moo-ving Performances by Danish Cello Ensemble

Cello ensemble playing for cows.

Click the image for the CNN video of Danish cows enjoying cello music.

During the pandemic, the Scandinavian Cello School performed udderly beautiful music for bovine audiences. Click on the image to see video footage:

Click the image for the CNN video of Danish cows enjoying cello music.

This story, from Lund, Denmark, made international news in April and May of 2021. Since they were unable to play for people at the height of the pandemic, the Hereford cows of farmers Mogens and Louise Haugaard enjoyed recitals organized by British cellist Jacob Shaw, who runs the Scandinavian Cello School.

While touring Japan, Shaw learned that some Japanese farmers play music for their wagyu cows, raising them to produce exceptionally tender beef. After discussing this with the Haugaards, they started playing classical music for their cows on a boombox in November of 2020.

In addition, Shaw and the resident cello students went to the barn in full concert dress and played cello ensemble music for the cows. The animals were drawn to the music but had discerning tastes. (Apparently, they were not moo-ved by Dvořák!)

Here is a short clip from NPR:


Read more here:

Oh, Deer

To round out this installment of our Cellos and Animals series, we turn to deer. While there are numerous examples of cellists with horses and cows, this is the only recorded example I was able to find of a cellist playing for deer. I’ve seen a video of a harp player and a deer, but no others with cellists. Please let me know if you find any. Here is a short video of cellist Diana Gómez playing Bach for two magnificent deer.

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