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August 22, 2009

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Funeral held for scaly calf

VILLAGERS in the poor community of Damnak Sangke in central Cambodia live hand to mouth, but many dug into their pockets to help pay for a funeral there yesterday for a three-day-old calf with a dark, reptilian hide that many believed was holy.

Outh Kdep, the calf's owner, said villagers believed in the animal's divinity because there was a drought for three months, but it rained the day after it was born.

The female calf was born on Tuesday and died on Thursday in the remote village in Pursat Province, about 220 kilometers northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh. It had thick, dark, scaly skin like a crocodile's, and legs with odd markings.

Yim Rith, 60, a community leader, said Cambodians had for centuries worshipped a Cow God believed to bring peace and prosperity. The deity disappeared from their land long ago, but the calf may have been a sign it was returning to help them, he said.

Hundreds of villagers flocked to see the animal, lighting incense to pray for its well-being and collecting its saliva, believed to cure illness. The visitors panicked the cow's mother, affecting her ability to produce enough milk to feed the calf, and it died.

But the faithful were undeterred. The calf's corpse was placed on a plastic sheet, and people washed water over it in the hopes of making the liquid holy.


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