Bava Kamma 46a ~ Injuries from Cows

בבא קמא מו, א

שור שנגח את הפרה ונמצא עוברה בצדה ואין ידוע אם עד שלא נגחה ילדה אם משנגחה ילדה משלם חצי נזק לפרה ורביע נזק לולד וכן פרה שנגחה את השור ונמצא ולדה בצדה ואין ידוע אם עד שלא נגחה ילדה אם משנגחה ילדה משתלם חצי נזק מן הפרה ורביע נזק מן הולד

If a bull gored a cow and its newly-born calf is found dead nearby, and it is not known whether the birth of the calf preceded or followed the goring, half damages are paid for the injuries inflicted upon the cow but only quarter damages are paid for the loss of the calf. If a cow gored a bull and a live calf was found nearby, so that it was unknown whether the birth of the calf preceded or followed the goring, half damages can be recovered out of the value of cow ,and quarter damages out of the  value of her calf. (Bava Kamma 46a.)

BullS vs people: the score so far

The Spanish Matador Victor Barrio was gored to death by a bull in Teruel, Spain last Shabbat. He was buried on Monday.

The Spanish Matador Victor Barrio was gored to death by a bull in Teruel, Spain last Shabbat. He was buried on Monday.

It's been a tough week for bullfighters. Last week, during the annual festival of running with the bulls in Pamplona, eleven men (including three Americans) were gored.  Meanwhile in the Italian village of Pedreguer near Valencia, a 28-year-old man died after a bull’s horn pierced his lung and heart during a run with the bulls there. Finally, last Shabbat, on the very day that we learned a page of Talmud about bullfighting, Victor Barrio, a 29-year-old professional matador, was killed when a bull’s horn pierced his chest as he competed in a fight in the town of Teruel in the eastern region of Aragon. He was the first matador to die in a bullfight since 1992. As we learned last week, Lorenzo, the 1,000 pound bull would not have been held liable in Jewish law, but this fact didn't help the him. Or his mother.   The killer bull and his mother were slaughtered for meat, because in Spanish tradition, the mother of any bull that kills a human is also destined to be slaughtered, in order to “kill off the bloodline”.  This news seems to make more relevant the talmudic discussions of the liabilities if an ox gores a person. But wait a minute. The opening chapters of Bava Kamma, the tractate currently being studied in the Daf Yomi cycle, focuses heavily on the legal liabilities of an ox that gores. But these were bulls. Is there any difference?

Just what is an ox?

The Hebrew word used in the Talmud is shor - (שור, rhymes with shore). Consider the following verse from Leviticus 22:27:

שור או כשב או עז כי יולד והיה שבעת ימים תחת אמו 

Here are some of the ways it is translated into English:

  • When a bull or a goat is born, it shall be seven days under its mother... (Robert Alter. The Five Books of Moses. [Alter seems to have forgotten to translate the word כשב]).
  • When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall be seven days under its mother...(S.R. Hirsch. The Pentateuch, translated into English by Isaac Levy.)
  • When any of the herd, or a sheep, or a goat is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under its dam..(The Pentateuch, translated into English by M. Rosenbaum and A.M. Silberman.)
  • When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall stay seven days with its mother...(The JPS Torah Commentary, ed. N. Sarna.)
  • When a bullock or a sheep or a goat is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under its dam...(Koren Jerusalem Bible.)
  • When a calf, a lamb or a goat is born, it is to remain with its mother for seven days...(New International Version.)
  • When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under the dam...(King James Bible)

There are more, but you get the point. The word shor (שור) has been translated as a bull, an ox, a calf, a bullock and as a collective, any of the herd.  The Koren Talmud, The ArtScroll Schottenstein Talmud and the Soncino Talmud all translate it as ox.  Confused? Me too.

Here are some of  The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary definitions of an ox:

1. The domestic bovine quadruped (sexually dist. as bull and cow); in common use, applied to the male castrated and used for draught purposes, or reared to serve as food.

2. Zool. Any beast of the bovine family of ruminants, including the domestic European species, the 'wild oxen' preserved in certain parks in Britain, the buffalo, bison, gaur, yak, musk-ox, etc.

In his late nineteenth century translation of the Jerusalem Talmud into French, Moise Schwab translated the word shor as "le bouef" (rather than "le teureau"). De Sola's English translation of the Mishnah, published in 1843, uses the word ox. So does the 1878 compendium by Joseph Barclay, and the first complete English translation of the Talmud, by Michael Rodkinson, published between 1896 and 1903.  The translation of shor as ox is goes back to these early translations, but the suggestion that the meaning of the word is a 'castrated male bovine quadraped' is certainly wrong. Jews are forbidden to castrate their animals, and a castrated bull would have been ineligible to use as a sacrifice. And so we must conclude that the best translation of the word shor (שור) is a bull. 

The delightfully named lecturer Dr. Goodfriend from California State University recently published a lengthy paper (in this book) on the various terms for cattle in the Bible, and the question of whether a castrated bull (a gelding) could have been offered as a sacrifice in the Temple.  The good professor Goodfriend concludes that indeed the prohibition against the castration of animals "would have placed the Israelite farmer at a disadvantage as fewer suitable animals would have been available for his use." One possible way to overcome come this (other than to use cows for ploughing) would have been to import castrated bulls from those who lived outside of Israel.  

Cow-related trauma is a common among farming communities and is a potentially serious mechanism of injury that appears to be under-reported in a hospital context. Bovine-related head-butt and trampling injuries should be considered akin to high-velocity trauma.
— Murphy, CG. McGuire, CM. O’Malley, N. Harrington P. Cow-related trauma: A 10-year review of injuries admitted to a single institution. Injury 2010. 41: 548–550.

Injuries from Domestic bulls (and Cows too)

Mechanisms of injury from cows. From Murphy, CG. McGuire, CM. O’Malley, N.  Harrington P.  Cow-related trauma: A 10-year review of injuries admitted to a single institution. Injury 2010. 41: 548–550.

Mechanisms of injury from cows. From Murphy, CG. McGuire, CM. O’Malley, N.  Harrington P.  Cow-related trauma: A 10-year review of injuries admitted to a single institution. Injury 2010. 41: 548–550.

Injures from bullfighting are hardly surprising, and the Talmud in Bava Kamma does not focus its attention on them. Rather, it addresses injuries from domestic bulls and cows outside of the bull fighting arena. This is made clear in the Mishnah we will learn in the Daf Yomi cycle tomorrow, which discusses injuries caused by a cow. It turns out that these kind of injuries remain common even today. In 2009, orthopedists from Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Ireland published a fascinating paper entitled Cow-related trauma: A 10-year review of injuries admitted to a single institution. Over a decade, the hospital admitted 47 people with cow related trauma, most of whom sustained their injuries from kicking (unlike matadors, who suffer from horn related injuries). And next time you feel like walking across a field containing some gentle-looking cows, remember this: one of the patients was admitted with a head injury, a hip fracture and hypothermia after being trampled on by his herd of cattle in a field and found a number of hours later.

If a bull be a goring bull and it is shown that he is a gorer, and he does not bind his horns, or fasten the bull, and the bull gores a free-born man and kills him, the owner shall pay one-half a mina in money. If he kills a man’s slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina.”
— Code of Hammurabi, Articles 251–252.

In another paper Blunt Bovine and Equine Trauma - from La Crosse Lutheran Hospital in Wisconsin, researchers provided this illustrative case:

A 57-year-old male was pinned to the ground by a 2,000 pound dairy bull and repeatedly knocked to the ground forcefully at least seven times before he was able to crawl from the pen…Examination revealed the following injuries: bilateral flail chest, 13 rib fractures, bilateral hemopneumothoraces, renal contusion, two forearm fractures, left shoulder dislocation, bilateral scapula fractures, and dental alveolar fractures. The patient was treated by...mechanical ventilation for 15 days…His hospital course was complicated by Klebsiella pneumonia and at 16-month followup he remained severely dyspneic, unable to perform his usual farm work.

Cattle look gentle, and for the most part, they are.  But they are large beasts with incredible strength. Hikers (and farmers) beware.

 John Singer Sargent. Shoeing The Ox, 1910. Oil on board. From the collection of the Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen, Scotland.

 John Singer Sargent. Shoeing The Ox, 1910. Oil on board. From the collection of the Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen, Scotland.