Houses Of The Holy Cow Poop

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The stereotype of India is true: cows wander the streets with impunity. They block traffic, they sleep on the sidewalk, they eat food scraps and plastic bags off the ground. Indians don't eat beef because they consider cows holy, but just because they're holy doesn't mean they're not an annoyance. In an upscale market in Delhi last December, I was passing a group of about thirty people waiting outside a restaurant when a cow came wandering by. It was a narrow lane with a small sidewalk, and the people waiting had spilled into the street, leaving barely enough room for cars to pass. Just as the cow came from one direction a car came from another, its horn blaring. The cow dodged away from the car and directly into the group of people. There were shouts as the crowd surged back into the unyielding wall, and the panicked cow bore down on the panicking people.

In cases like this, even a holy incarnate needs a little prodding. The day was saved when a parking attendant dashed up and slapped the cow on the side, hard, angrily, repeatedly, until she turned around in her confusion and returned the way she came.

Why would Indian society put up with these giants that obstruct their streets, nose through their garbage, and menace their restaurant patrons? Because for the hundreds of millions of Indians who will never have enough money to even visit a restaurant, the cow is truly a gift from god: from its udders comes food, and from its ass comes fuel.

The prevalence of cow poop as a fuel becomes clear the moment you leave the city. Lining the roads in the countryside -- in fact, lining any available space not already given over to crops or housing -- are row after row of circular foot-wide cowpies drying in the hot Indian sun.



This photo by steve. All other photos by me.

One blogger describes how the cowpies are prepared and what they're used for. "I would then help my mother to make sheni from the heap of dung collected in the field. Sheni is/are about 30 cm in diameter, 3 cm thick disc made by mixing water, rice husk and chopped rice straw, pulverized by feet, and the balls of mix are pressed flat by hand, and sun dried. These were stacked and stored mainly for monsoon. It was a 'free' energy -- fuel -- for cooking; this practice still continues.

"The cow dung helped us to help grow food in the farms, helped to cook our food, and helped us to maintain our mud house; thus helped us to sustain. And finally the used cow dung in -- all forms -- went to the soil."

Even in Delhi itself, it's not surprising to see cowpies drying on sidewalks and embankments. Two months ago, however, on a trip to the rural Indian village of Karanpur, I noticed a new manifestation of cow poop: cow poop houses.

The monsoon is coming. In fact, it might already be here -- a downpour this morning turned the road outside my flat into a two-foot deep lake. The rains in India fierce enough to destroy any cowpie left unprotected, melting cowpies into mud, fertilizing the ground but destroying the chance at a hot meal. To protect against this, rural Indians spend the months leading up to the monsoon building huts to store their cooking fuel.

The huts, of course, are also built out of cow poop.

While in Karanpur, we stumbled upon a group of villagers in the process of building a cowpie house. The women laughed at themselves as we came upon them -- they were clearly a little embarrassed to be seen by foreigners as they kneaded the poop like bread dough. But it wasn't a humiliated kind of embarrassment -- rather, it was an acknowledgment that we caught them in an awkward moment. It's how you'd feel if a political candidate dropped by on a door-to-door and caught you mowing the lawn in your rattiest t-shirt.

Building the huts seemed like a straightforward process. Dried cowpies are placed into stacks numbering into the hundreds. Wet poop is then molded around them. The poop is presumably mixed with a higher concentration of straw than normal, probably to function much like rebar would in cement. The exterior poop is spread thick and strong to keep the interior poop dry through the rains. It's doubtful that the houses can survive much more than a few weeks of rain, but that should be enough to keep the fuel flammable until the weather clears up enough to dry more cowpies.

This is why the cow is holy, and why Indians are so accommodating of them. Not because the Indians arbitrarily worship what we see as dinner, but because the cow provides so much required for sustaining their lives. Cows need to be revered, because they're far too valuable to eat.

35 Comments on "Houses Of The Holy Cow Poop"

Deja Poo's picture
Comment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ points
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On this Memorial day weekend, I'm making a burnt sacrifice to your gawd.

Wait a second. That's not quite right. I meant, I'm making a burnt sacrifice of your gawd.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make a pyre in the Weber.
_______
Yo quiero Taco Bell.

Yo quiero Taco Bell.

prarie doggin's picture
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I understand that in parts of India they worship rats. I imagine those huts take a lot longer to build.

C Everett Poop's picture
j 1000+ points
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If I go to Taco Bell, I can lay down a pile to match any cow on earth. I wonder if they would worship me in India.

The Thunderous Crapper 63's picture
k 500+ points
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I dont know C.E.P. I could do the same thing with my massive shitballs what do you say we go over and have a contest to see. I bet we put Indian asses in the seats.....We would probably sell out.
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The Thunderous Crapper 63 Enjoying home toilet advantage since 2004!

AHHHHHEMMMMMMMMMM JUST CLEARING MY THROAT!! ;)

Logjam's picture
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If you want them to take you for a cow, CP, just pull down your pants; no one will mistake you for a bull.

Logjam

The Big Wiper's picture
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I think HGTV is missing a bet by not doing a show on cow poop houses as examples of extreme cribs, so to speak.

Pulling My Pants Down For Peace, Plop and Posterity!

Pulling My Pants Down For Peace, Plop and Posterity!

Blind Mullet's picture
k 500+ points
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Hmmm...
Shit...
Houses...
Religious reverence...
Holy shit houses, Batman, haven't these people heard of tarpaulins?

The white zone is for loading and unloading only- FZ.

prarie doggin's picture
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BM, they have tried tarpaulins, but pounding the cow shit that thin makes it too weak and it just falls apart.

Blind Mullet's picture
k 500+ points
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Ha ha ha!
I wonder if its ever occurred to them to deify the cotton plant, and they could reap its wondrous bounty and, oh, just an idea, spin the stuff into threads, and make canvas!!!

The white zone is for loading and unloading only- FZ.

pnuttycorn's picture
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Gives the word shithouse a whole new meaning.

CC's picture
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Man and I thought the real estate market here was in shitty condition.

daphne's picture
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I have no idea how those women could work with cow poop and still look so clean. Their clothes don't look messy at all. I go outside to work in the yard and end up looking like I was pulled through the mud in less than half an hour.


_______
.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

prarie doggin's picture
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"looked like you were pulled through the mud"
You weren't hanging out with G Ras and his brother were you? (boy they'd have a field day in India)

ChiefThunderbutt's picture
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I am intrigued by the
idea of cooking over burning poop. Just think of the delicate flavor the smoke would add to your entree.
Nothing would whet the old apetite like a servng of beef shitington which I presume should be served with a good brown wine.

_______
Eat chilies and feel the burn!!

How long a minute is depends on what side of the bathroom door you're on!

Deja Poo's picture
Comment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ points
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Mrs. DP has been pestering me to put an addition on the house. I wonder whether the Homeowners' Association would give me approval.
_______
Yo quiero Taco Bell.

Yo quiero Taco Bell.

Dumps Like a Truck's picture
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Probably this has been addressed before, butt, isn't human poo much smellier than other animal poo? Pet (cat and dog) poo - not too bad. Farm animal (cow, horse, piggy) poo - smelly, but not nearly as bad as human feces. Night soil? THE WORST!!! Is is our diet?

ChiefThunderbutt's picture
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Dear Dumps Like a Truck,

I have a cat who makes a mockery of your post. She
takes dumps that peel the paint from the walls around her litter box.
Our house is not large and she has no trouble fouling the air from one end to the other. She farts also. What A cat!!!

_______
Eat chilies and feel the burn!!

How long a minute is depends on what side of the bathroom door you're on!

Bilgepump's picture
Comment Quality Moderatorh 3000+ points
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I wonder if Jimmy Page and Robert Plant might get together for a reworking of thier "Houses of the Holy" for this...that could be kind of uh....hmmm....well, strange.
_______

The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough.

"One of the founding members of the Front Page Hyena Pack, and runs as its alpha male when the urge strikes him, which is often." Daphne (one perceptive chick)

daphne's picture
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What are you feeding that cat? I'm picturing some Oscar Madison feline chowing down on Burger King and chasing it with a six-pack of Schlitz, then sauntering over to the litter box, scratching his groin and belching.


_______
.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

The Shit Volcano's picture
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It's interesting to note that the most used fuel in the world is not petroleum. It's poop! East Indians burn it. Third world countries burn it. American pioneers and Native Americans used it quite frequently in the 1800s.

I have even found it used today in the United States, when I encountered a home in northwestern Oregon that was heated by burning cow pies to save fuel costs. I think with our current gas prices this may start happening more often in the rural areas of America.

Interesting article, Dave. I never knew just how MUCH India used cow shit.

_______
Born right the first time.

I found Jesus! He was behind the sofa the whole time!

Anonymous Coward's picture
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Living in a shit house means never having to say "I'm sorry" when you fart.

invictus247's picture
m 1+ points - Newb
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Poop powered vehicles should be on the burner next.Would give new meaning to it runs like shit,It runs like hot shit check it out!And gets 20 miles per pound.

shitwit's picture
k 500+ points
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Oh yeah! Shit brick houses! That's what we Westerners screwed up on. We've been trying to make brick shit houses all this time... duh... we should have been using the cow poop!

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Rock-n-roll! Poopy-poo!

Rock-n-roll! Poopy-poo!

Bran Lover's picture
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Daphne, I am new here, but your additions to this site seem incongruous. You are too dainty and just plain NICE to be such a Porcelain Goddess around here! Let me scratch my butt and shake your hand! :) (You help me keep from feeling like too much of a sicko that I am enjoying the shit out this site!)
In any case, let's all get together and play a hearty round of cow patty soccer! Will Bilgepump, C Everett or prairie doggin be the first to head butt the ball?

_______
To affect the quality of the poo, that is the art of life. ~Thoreau, sort of.

To affect the quality of the poo, that is the art of life. ~Thoreau, sort of.

daphne's picture
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Gah! Bran Lover, I wish I was dainty and nice. Thank you for the sweet comment; however I'm sure in the next few months you'll be introduced to my evil alter ego - Adolphne Shitler. I have a hard time controlling her.....

P.S. I love this site, too. My family thinks I'm so weird.


_______
.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

The Shit Volcano's picture
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Oh, but having people think you're weird is part of the fun!

_______
Born right the first time.

I found Jesus! He was behind the sofa the whole time!

sittingpretty's picture
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The first thing I noticed too, Daphne was that the women working in poop look so bright and clean. What we can't see is is how they smell. Living in houses made of shit, cooking over shit, and working in shit has to get into your pores, your hair, your clothes. Their food probably smells and tastes like cow paddies despite the curry and other exotic Indian spices. It just has to be a very smelly, even revolting existance. I feel sorry for them.

...And their flesh like dung. Zeph. 1:17

prarie doggin's picture
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The whole thing is fake. I recognized the women from some of the Bollywood clips. They are just stand-ins. Beside, I saw that very same ladder on sale at Home Depot yesterday.

Poopycheeks's picture
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@sittingpretty: They're probably used to it. I don't know many smokers who complain about how they smell. But I know plenty of non-smokers who have a much different opinion about it. I'm sure the smell of poop is just... normal. I bet it'd mitigate the smell of yours (and others'), too.
_______
Don't worry, I do it, too!

Don't worry, I do it, too!

DR T's picture
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To these folks, shit is GOLD!

sittingpretty's picture
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Chief, I can supply a good brown wine. I made it this morning. Dumps, diet, hormones, transit time. The longer it's inside the gut putrifying in 98.6 F ° the stinkier it gets. PD, nuh uuh! You know its authentic; it's from Dave. The hut with the ladder is the nicest one, don't you think. It has architectual flare. Artsy fartsy! If I had to pick one, I pick that one. Poopycheeks, until this morning, I smelled like I lived in that village for weeks. I even had a shitty taste in mouth because I had a fecal obstruction. Finally, last night at 2:30 am, I started pouring Chief's brown wine. I poured brown wine for four straight hours. The cramps were "call-in" worthy at best. Then to my surprise, my last pour delivered two thin 1/2 a petite baby-finger sized, melting like ice cubes, fuzzy like an old teddy, light brown friggetts. I had to tell my Turkish male boss that I had a fecal blockage since I had called in. Then when I felt better I wanted to go to work.
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...And their flesh like dung. Zeph. 1:17

...And their flesh like dung. Zeph. 1:17

sittingpretty's picture
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It is no where in the Bible, but I think when I get to heaven, my new body will shit gold.
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...And their flesh like dung. Zeph. 1:17

...And their flesh like dung. Zeph. 1:17

Cunard Cruise Lines's picture
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Indeed, this is absolutely amazing! How much imagination do you need to do something like this? It wouldn't have crossed my mind in 1000 years!

daphne's picture
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It's called necessity. These people live in poverty and are using whatever they have available to live. Are you really amazed? Really?

God I hate advertising spammers. I know it's bitchy, but I hate them. They come on the site and post some inane comment that has no content of worth just to get a link to their business. Why does this piss me off so much? They're not hurting anyone, per se. It's not like this particular company is trying advertise kiddie porn, but it irritates me nonetheless. I think it's the cheese factor involved, the absolute lack of purpose other than to self promote, the pure assfuckery of it all. When I read comments from companies like this, I involuntarily twitch. Maybe I'm allergic to bullshit.

Why, yes I'm on my period. Why do you ask?

I need a Pamprin and a hug.


_______
.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

Screaming Lemur's picture
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Folks, as someone who has been to India a few times, lemme tell you, cow shit don't stink. It doesn't really smell at all. It's composed of grass and other vegetable matter, in various states of digestion.
Now, if you've been to India, you'll know that from the moment you hit the tarmac, 'til your plane de-pressurises back home, there's a distinct smell. The whole country, from Kolkata to Amritsar, from Chennai to Darjeeling, has a spicy, smoky fragrance.
In the cities, there is a slightly more faecal smell. With a billion or so people pooping, and a half-baked sewerage system, it's gunna waft!
But those big cow pats, at all stages, from fresh and steaming, to dry and crumbly, to cooking your dinner, has no odour. They use it in the ways they do precisely because it has no odour. Every rural house has hundreds of these things on their roofs, splatted onto their walls (to dry) or piled up at the front door for easy access.
But from my observations, in this rapidly developing and globalising world, there is a growing trend in India away from cow dung. These days, collecting cow dung is more a marker of poverty than one of life's necessities. City folks tend to frown upon collecting dung for heating and fuel – like us, they're starting to see it as dirty (although I did see dung still being collected by the elderly in the maze of alleys that is Varanasi - and believe me, there's plenty of it to collect in that holiest of cities). Instead of cow dung, the growing middle classes are using coal, gas, diesel and electricity to perform the tasks once fulfilled by cow turds.
And when there's more than a billion people making the switch to flicking the switch (and all this fresh cow shit going to waste!), it's going to have a big effect on the environment.
So I say, long live the cow pat!