Believers take water the cow or the turtle have touched and wash in it to bring good
"I believe that whatever I said, the cow understood," said Mao Pheach,
47, who visited "Preah Kou" (His Divine Majesty the Cow).
"When you compare him with other cows, they do not understand. But when I asked
for water, the cow put his mouth on my head and then back towards the water as if
to show me what I needed." She proudly displayed a photo of herself with him.
Some more fanatical types are even taking away the divine bovine's urine and manure.
"I don't know [what they do with the excrement], it depends on their belief,"
said the pagoda's monk, Ta Kaing. He claimed people were coming from as far away
as Battambang and Siem Reap to see the cow.
Preah Kou gained fame as the determined bullock which escaped a slaughterhouse and
caused traffic jams all over Phnom Penh earlier this month as it wandered into homes
and even tried to enter the Royal Palace.
Ta Kaing happened to be in Phnom Penh and met the cow after it had installed itself
in someone's living room, while traffic police were threatening to kill it. An animal
lover, Ta Kaing said he felt Buddhist mercy for the cow and offered to take it home.
"I touched the cow's head and said, 'Let us tie you up, it doesn't mean we're
going to kill you. We are trying to rescue you. If you don't, I can't be responsible
for your life.'"
The monk told the cow of a few names of peaceful places that it could go to.
"I named a few pagodas for him to live in, but he shook his head all the time.
When I named my pagoda he bowed his head down," the monk recounted, taking that
as an assent.
MAGICAL MOMENT: offerings for Preah Kou
To the wonder of onlookers, the cow then knelt down and let itself be tied easily
and led into a truck.
"He's clever, the cow," said Ta Kaing. "He knows a good man from a
bad man. That's why when he saw a monk he wanted to be with me."
Rapturous believers mobbed the truck from the Independence Monument to the Inter-Continental
Hotel, and now go to visit the pagoda.
The legend of Preah Kou has grown quickly. Some believers - including Ta Kaing himself
- are convinced that the cow was killed by an electric shock at the slaughterhouse
and came back to life to escape. Others claim the cow leaped a two-meter fence to
"I'm not superstitious, but I believe in this cow, I really believe," said
Sing Soy, 69, who traveled over two hours from Phnom Penh to meet Preah Kou.
"Hundreds of thousands of cows could never escape slaughter, but this one could
- it seems like there was something behind him, to take care of him," she said.
Ta Kaing held a huge ceremony to welcome Preah Kou to his remote, hillside temple.
"We had seven days and seven nights of celebration. The pagoda grounds were
full of cars," he said. People stayed for the whole week, doing work at the
pagoda for free just to be near the holy cow.
And then, just when Ta Kaing thought things couldn't get better, the turtle appeared.
a curious onlooker inspects the turtle
"It was crawling along side the road to the hill, heading straight for this
temple," the monk said. "It stopped for a rest in someone's house and they
brought it here."
The large turtle has inscriptions all over its shell, including dates and names of
pagodas. The earliest date is 1936.
"This turtle is very old," said Sing Soy. "So many million people
were killed during the Khmer Rouge time, how did this turtle survive? People ate
She believes the turtle, like the cow, is a mienbon (a Buddhist word also used for
the King: a divine, powerful savior who brings luck). The monk noted that both animals
brought rain the days they arrived - the King is also believed to bring rain when
The turtle now spends its days sitting in front of the pagoda's altar, receiving
adulation and occasionally dunking its head in bowls of water to oblige the faithful.
the turtle blesses some holy water.
"We tried to keep him in a pond, but the turtle kept coming up to stay under
the bed," said Ta Kaing. "I think it is a happy place for him."
The monk reported that he had received tons of cement and over 100,000 riels in donations.
He says he will use them to build a new "palace" for Preah Kou.
Now, the cow stays in a makeshift shelter, with a tarp for a ceiling, but he is provided
with a mosquito net. The cuts and scrapes he garnered during his daring escape have
been cleaned and treated, and he wears a collar of bells and also a lavish metal
necklace specially made for him.
The blessed beasts don't mingle much. When put in the same spot, the cow sniffed
the turtle curiously as it tried to waddle away, drawing peals of laughter from onlookers.
"I will keep them forever," said Ta Kaing fondly.