“YOU’VE GOT a what?” I asked incredulously, as I sat visiting with Ike Sankey in Cody, Wyoming. “I’ve got a mare raising a calf,” Ike repeated.

By Darrell Arnold, as written in December 1985

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Ike Sankey’s Quarter Horse mare and her adopted Simbrah calf.

“What do you mean, raising a calf? Do you mean actually nursing it?”

“That’s what I mean,” assured Ike.

It was last August, and I was in Cody, doing a story on the historic Cody Night Rodeo. Ike Sankey, a PRCA cowboy, took over the management of the Cody Rodeo in 1981. Since then, he has expanded his interests to include the raising of Quarter Horses, bucking horses, and registered Simbrah cattle–a cross between Simmentals and Brahmans.

Ike explained to me that last spring one of his Quarter Horse mares gave birth to a foal two months prematurely. The foal died. At about the same time, one of his registered cows died, leaving behind a very small bull calf.

The calf happened to be in a stall near the mare, and the mare acted like she wanted to claim him. On a whim, Ike turned the calf in with the mare, and he immediately began to suckle. From then on, the pair acted like they belonged together.

“That calf is a nauseating little sucker,” commented Ike. “He butts that mare a lot harder than a foal would and really hurts her. Sometimes she tries to get away from him, but if they get split up, she starts worrying. She’ll nicker to him and come get him, and he’ll lope alongside of her, just like a colt.”

I had to see this phenomenon, so Ike took me to his pasture. While I took photos, some of the other horses in the pasture began to pester the calf. Sure enough, the mare nickered and came to his rescue.  

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