OREGON COUNTY -- When Bud and Ginny Nichols first came to Oregon County. Bud was looking for something a little different and thought about purchasing some buffalo to raise. "I decided they were to rough and was afraid Ginny would get hurt working them, so we decided to raise Watusi cattle," Nichols said.
This is how the rare breed of African cattle was started on the 200 acres of the Nichols farm deep in the heart of Oregon County. The farm is nestled majestically between Falling Spring and the Wilderness area. It is near picture perfect, with springs and a cave.
The Watusi heard at the farm numbers about 16, one less than a month ago. Nichols said for many years he has had problems with his cattle and other animals being bothered on the farm, but this is the first time one disappeared.
"The cow was here between June 15 and 20. On the 30th I knew she was close to calving, and when I didn't see her I didn't think much about it," he said. Nichols explained that sometimes that breed of cattle will go off by themselves to have their calves. Nichols never laid eyes on his cow again.
Nichols said he could not really put a dollar amount on the missing animal. "We value our animals as part of our family more than the money part," he said. The Nichols are offering a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved in the theft of the animal.
At first Nichols said he thought the animal might be dead on the farm somewhere, but he says he has looked and also observed buzzards flying over the farm and not stopping.
The farm is surrounded by forest service land and Nichols sees this as part of the problem.
The Watusi cattle are ancient, sacred cattle of the Kenya, Rwanda area of Africa. They have the reputation of being the world's largest horned cattle. The horns on the animals vary from lateral to upswept. Some have been known to reach 28 inches in circumference and up to 8 feet from tip to tip.
Oregon County Sheriff Tim Ward said Nichols filed an information sheet in his office July 7 stating the animal was missing. Ward visited the farm the next day and walked some of the fence rows with Nichols and found nothing. He said the incident is still under investigation by his office.
"We have not had much of a problem with stolen cattle in the county. Back in 1993 we had several cattle stolen and recovered. We get about a call a year regarding stolen cattle," the sheriff said.
For now, things are going as usual on the Nichols farm. Ginny raises small dogs and and has been kept busy bottle feeding a homeless baby kitten. Bud works from sunup to sundown tending Watusi cattle and llamas and making sure the day-to-day operations of the farm work.
Anyone with any information regarding the missing cow should contact the Oregon County Sheriff's Office at 417-778-6611.