The Gentle Barn celebrates bull’s second birthday

Jessica Steele feeds Ferdinand the bull some of his birthday cake at The Gentle Barn. Matt Fernandez/ The Signal

Sunday was a special day at The Gentle Barn as staff wearing bull-horn hats and guests celebrated Ferdinand the bull’s second birthday.

At 1:30 p.m., guests crowded around the bull pen, sang “Happy Birthday” to Ferdinand and were given the chance to feed birthday cake to him and his bovine brethren.

Ellie Laks, founder of The Gentle Barn, said this birthday is a big milestone for the bull who was orphaned at 8 weeks old and last month experienced the death of the cow who adopted him. Since rescuing him, Laks said she has seen the bull become less scared, more friendly and more able to bond with the other cows she has rescued.

Ferdinand’s story is especially important for Laks because she plans to include him in her animal therapy program and hopes the people she works with will be able to relate to his struggles and his ability to grow past them.

“He’s lost two moms, but he is what I would call the embodiment of resilience because he’s gone through some really tough times that could easily have crushed him, but instead he’s stayed strong,” Laks said. “He’s going to be an integral part of our program because we work with kids to adults that have survived trauma and he’s the perfect example of being able to forgive and overcome.”

Ferdinand presents a special case for The Gentle Barn because Laks knew his age when she got him, which is not always the case for the animals she rescues. Ferdinand’s birthday was also an opportunity for her to celebrate her other cows, whose ages she does not know, and guests were also able to feed them some cake. 

Julia Jimeno came to The Gentle Barn to celebrate her own birthday and fed Ferdinand some of his cake.

“The physical sensation was weird because their tongues are like cat tongues and there’s a lot of spit, but I felt honored to give him a piece of his cake,” Jimeno said. “We got to talk to Ellie and visit all the other animals today, and I think opening up events like these for the public and not just specific groups is critical for spreading awareness.”

Sisters Jessica and Jenna Steele also got to feed Ferdinand some cake and said they appreciated that The Gentle Barn acknowledged birthdays for animals like they would for humans.

“Animals deserve to be appreciated too, and it was a cool experience being able to feed a cow,” Jessica said. “We found out about Ferdinand’s birthday through their Instagram page, and we had been trying to come and visit The Gentle Barn anyway. Events like this show help encourage the community to learn more about these animals and try to save them.”

Laks said she was happy with how excited the guests were for the birthday celebration and hopes it gives the public a better understanding of how intelligent cows really are.

“Most people don’t get to see the things I do with these animals every day, and every opportunity we have to show how intelligent these animals with their own personalities is part of our mission,” Laks said. “We’re all about providing people with first-time experiences, and what other place out there celebrates a bull’s second birthday?”

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