They might be an afterthought to your Horsebarn hikes, but the wonderful selection of fauna surrounding UConn’s summit deserve more attention than they get from the student populace, besides the wonderful animal science majors that keep their manes brushed and their troughs slopped. After a brutal midterm season, I’ve been centering myself with biweekly-ish walks around and over Horsebarn Hill, making sure to take time to admire the number of animals that call this campus home. Or however you say “home” in cow.
I always start my walks where Gurleyville Road intersects Storrs Road, right through East Campus. I walk northeast down Horsebarn Hill away from campus, and it’s only about five minutes or so before I encounter my first animals: A bunch of horses on the fields to the right. They’re usually far from where you stand, sometimes hundreds of feet away, noshing on the grass not too far from the big houses on Gurleyville. Sometimes I wonder if any stallion has jumped the fence and stormed a dinner party.
After my horse watching, I continue on the loop, passing various farm buildings, notably the horse barn. The road bends, and you suddenly feel like you’re on some rural midwestern backroad, not a major research university (every single animal is “on campus,” whereas Ted’s technically isn’t). Just before the long, straight shot to the top right corner of the hill, I take a sharp right into “Horse Unit 2,” which I would guess is UConn’s second unit for holding its horses.
There are always horses. Unlike the cows, which are affectionately given names on their ear tags, the horses are anonymous to me. Still, I give them attention, getting as close as I can without disturbing whatever they’re up to. Usually eating or walking around. Or walking around while eating (relatable). On my first couple of visits during my sophomore and junior years, they were a bit more skittish, but now that I’ve made it a hobby, they’ve gone from scared to likely thinking, “oh, it’s this dude again.” I’m not sure if horses know how to be passive-aggressive. Sometimes “Horse Unit 2” goes against its branding and acts as a storage unit for the cows in the back, but usually they can be found atop the hill (spoiler alert).
After my voyage into HU2, I walk down the quarter mile or so of straight road, admiring Horsebarn Hill from behind. I often pass by the sheep, chomping away on the hill side of the road. They’re far enough away that I can’t tell you if they have any inner mantras about their role as grass-eaters on campus. Soon, I walk by the fittingly named “Cattle Resources Unit,” where a large number of cows are kept. I walked through it once a year or two ago with my parents, but now I just admire from afar, appreciating the cacophony of “moos” in the background of whatever song is playing through my AirPods.
I trudge up the slow incline to get to the top of the road. Sometimes there are cows waiting for me on the corner of Horsebarn and Old Farm Lane (the road that goes into the back of the Dairy Bar), but they usually can be found either further down the latter or atop Horsebarn Hill. Wherever they are, I go.
You haven’t seen beauty until you’ve seen a bunch of huge cows chow down on an early dinner with the sun setting on campus behind them. They don’t care about the sunset; they probably don’t know what it is. They just see the dark coming and know to fill up on feed for the cold night. And in a way, we all do that. My favorite of the many cows that UConn owns is named “Delilah.” Sometimes I make a “‘hay’ there, Delilah” joke to her while she’s eating, but she probably isn’t into ’00s pop anyways, probably more into ’80s new wave or something. You aren’t supposed to feed the cattle food outside of what they eat regularly, so I just pull grass off the ground to feed to her and her friends.
The animals are good. Check them out if you have a couple hours free!
Daniel Cohn is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.