It’s been close to a decade since they first roamed our pastures, but Cowboy and Cassidy are back and calling Farm Sanctuary home again. The steer/goat duo met here as babies. At just a few months old, Cowboy and Cassidy were adopted by a local family with horses, pigs, and other rescued animals. The boys were their first (and only) bovine and goat residents.

Both species are herd animals, and find safety and strength among their own kind. Without others like them around, Cowboy and Cassidy were lonely. Sometimes, interspecies friendships can work out —but these two never quite hit it off.

Recently, their guardian, knowing that they needed more than she could give, asked if we could bring them back to our Southern California Shelter. Our policy is to always take back any animal if their adoptive homes fall through, so that we can make sure they have a safe place to land, and don’t return to situations of abuse or neglect.

For safety reasons, we couldn’t house Cowboy and Cassidy together within our goat or bovine herds. If these two were actually a bonded pair, we would need to find another home for them through our Farm Animal Adoption Network —one that could keep them together. Keeping different species together works for some animals, like Isaac at our New York Shelter—a steer who thinks he is a goat, and prefers the presence of his caprine friends. But based on Cowboy and Cassidy’s temperaments, and the limited space at our Acton shelter, this approach would be impractical for them.

On their first day, we took a close look at how Cowboy and Cassidy got along with each other. As it turned out, Cowboy and Cassidy’s friendship appeared to be one of convenience. When they arrived, each grew enticed by the calls of their people. We had to keep them both on mandatory quarantine at first, to make sure they were healthy enough to join a herd. While they couldn’t meet their new friends face to face yet, they found comfort in “talking” to them through the fence. It lifted their spirits—and ours—for them to finally have the chance to form meaningful bonds with other bovines and goats like them.

Cowboy was the first to join his new friends. We were curious: how would he react when he met the others for the first time? Would he be scared, or even too rough for youngsters Dixon and Leo ? Much to our delight, he was so overjoyed to make new friends that he began running, jumping, and playing like a calf himself!

The others quickly welcomed Cowboy to the herd—greeting him with gentle sniffs and nuzzles, and joining him in his excited romping. What surprised us most, though, was how quickly they saw Cowboy as one of their own. They showed this loyalty during Cowboy’s first adventure to our upper pasture—a giant playground we open a few days each week. The herd knew the drill, and excitedly raced up the hill to play. But Cowboy, who didn’t know what awaited him, watched hesitantly from below. The others, refusing to leave their new friend behind, mooed to Cowboy with encouragement—letting him know that it was safe to join. Once there, he had the time of his life! He’s been one of the herd ever since.

It took Cassidy a little longer to find his people. We had to keep him on extended quarantine due to his severe emaciation—we worried he had parasites or a wasting disease. Thankfully, his bloodwork came back clean. His weight loss seemed to stem from malnutrition and dental problems: his teeth are down to the nerves, making chewing painful. We immediately put him on pain medication, and now feed him a soft mash three times a day to help him put on weight.

Once Cassidy regained his strength and was healthy enough to make new friends, we introduced him to our sheep flock—also home to our special needs goats. There, he met Maria—an elderly goat without teeth, who also gets a mash to meet her nutritional needs. We separate our mash eaters during mealtimes, so that they get to eat without our other residents’ “help.” Cassidy and Maria formed a deep bond during mealtimes over their shared love of food!

It’s been remarkable watching them together. Maria is a “people goat”—she loves humans, but never really had a best sheep or goat friend. Everything changed when she met Cassidy, and it’s been a treat watching their friendship blossom. Cassidy, like his friend, also loves meeting people, and we often find him waiting at the gate for visitors! These two are fan favorites on our public tours, and it’s been great seeing Cassidy feel at home.

Cowboy and Cassidy are proof that you can, indeed, go home again. Their story brings to mind a quote by Pascal Mercier in his book Night Train to Lisbon : “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place. We stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”

Welcome home, Cowboy and Cassidy.