- - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

BERLIN “Until the cows come home” has special meaning these days for Germans, who were transfixed this summer by the wanderings of a wayward bovine avoiding the butcher’s block.

Yvonne, a brown dairy cow, has returned to a Bavarian farm after a three-month run that confounded local authorities but impressed townsfolk, who followed daily reports about sightings of her and even campaigned to keep her free.

The 6-year-old is “the cow that thinks she is a deer,” according to the German media, which devoted as much attention to Yvonne’s exploits as they did to the euro debt crisis, nuclear energy policy and upcoming elections.

Scheduled to be slaughtered in late May, Yvonne broke through an electric fence from her farm and hid in forests. She appeared occasionally near highways and communities but somehow managed to evade veteran trackers and hunters.

After she nearly collided with a police car, local authorities put a bounty on her head with a shoot-to-kill order, calling her “a public danger.”

But officials rescinded the order when animal rights groups protested and a public uproar over her fate began: Yvonne’s fans wrote songs, created Facebook fan pages and followed “her” blog. The German tabloid Bild offered a $14,000 reward for Yvonne’s safe capture.

Cheered on in the media as a “freedom fighter,” Yvonne eluded searches by helicopters equipped with high-tech, heat-sensing gear.

She ignored attempts to lure her out of hiding with her sister, Waltraud, and with the “deep baritone moo” of Ernst the bull, known as the “George Clooney of bulls” among Bavarian farmers.

She passed up an opportunity to reunite with her 2-year-old son, Freisi.

Not even the telepathic pleadings of Franziska Matti, a Swiss animal communication specialist, could entice Yvonne from her solitary sojourn.

In the end, Yvonne turned herself in, wandering near a farm in the town of Muhldorf am Inn and trying to engage the other cows grazing there on Thursday. “She apparently got tired of being lonely,” local authorities said in a statement.

“Yvonne’s fate became internationally known because she made a clear statement: ‘I am a wild animal, I can live in the forest, and I don’t want to have anything to do with humans because they have treated me badly,’ ” said Michael Aufhauser of the Gut Aiderbichl animal sanctuary, which bought Yvonne for $855.

Now, she will live out the rest of her days with her son, and Ernst, and hundreds of fellow runaways: 400 cows, 550 horses, as well as chimps, donkeys, camels and cats. Yvonne will be free to wander the pastures as she likes - within the sanctuary’s confines.