Damnak Sangke commune residents believe the body of the calf, born with crocodile-like skin despite having died last week, holds magical properties.
Hundreds of Cambodians staged a ceremony after the death of a "holy cow" whose spit could supposedly cure several illnesses, local officials said.
The mystical calf, which reportedly had unusual skin that looked like crocodile hide, was born last week but died just two days later in northern Pursat province's Damnak Sangke, village chief Sok Mim said.
He said about 100 villagers gathered at the house of the cow's owner, Outh Kdep, for a three-day memorial ceremony. Despite living on the poverty line, many of them dug into their pockets to help finance the elaborate funeral.
"A lot of people have flocked to the ceremony. They offered money and lit incense sticks before the cow to pray for it to be reborn and live a longer life," Sok Mim told reporters.
SOME PEOPLE USED THE SPIT FROM THE COW'S MOUTH TO CURE THEIR TOOTHACHE AND OTHER ILLNESS.
"The cow looked strange. Its legs have signs like carved arts and its skin is like a crocodile's skin. Old people believe that the cow is holy. Some people used the spit from the cow's mouth to cure their toothache and other illness. They said they recovered from aches afterwards," Sok Mim said.
The female calf was born last Tuesday but died Thursday in Damnak Sangke.
A local police official said villagers believed the cow had mystical powers because there had been a lot of rain in the drought-hit village the day after the calf was born.
Yim Rith, 60, a community leader, said Cambodians have for centuries worshipped a cow god believed to bring peace and prosperity, the Associated Press reported. The deity disappeared from their land long ago, but the calf may have been a sign it was returning to help them, the AP quoted him as saying.
The calf's birth drew hundreds of villagers to the remote outpost. There, they lit incense to pray for its well-being and collected its saliva for cures.
The sudden influx of visitors is believed to have panicked the cow's mother. Unable to produce enough milk to feed it, her calf died. Its corpse was placed on a plastic sheet, and people washed water over it in the hope of making the liquid holy.
Srey Nak, 72, said that when some was applied to her joints and teeth, old pains and aches went away, according to the AP.
"But I am very upset that the cow god came to live with us for just three days and has now died," the AP quoted her as saying. "If she stayed longer, then many sick people could have been treated."
Un Dary, general director of religious affairs for Cambodia's Ministry of Cults and Religions, told reporters he did not know about the case, but that many Cambodians subscribe to animism - a belief that spirits can inhabit all sorts of living and inanimate objects.
Whenever an odd animal makes an appearance, he said, it is cause for the superstitious to celebrate.
He speculated that the freak appearance of the calf may have been due to a vitamin deficiency or virus.
Outh Kdeb, 40, told reporters that, had the cow lived, "my family and the people in this area as well as the whole entire Cambodian nation would have achieved more peace and prosperity".
The calf was buried in a rice field near Outh Kdeb's house. Villagers contributed 150,000 riels (US$36.27) and she contributed 200,000 riel for a ceremony with six Buddhist monks to give thanks and wishes for its soul, praying for it to be reborn as soon as possible. AFP