KOLKATA, India (Reuters) -- When dozens of chickens went missing from a remote West Bengal village, everyone blamed the neighborhood dogs.
But Ajit Ghosh, the owner of the missing chickens, eventually solved the puzzle when he caught his cow -- a sacred animal for the Hindu family -- gobbling up several of them at night.
"We were shocked to see our calf eating chickens alive," Ghosh told Reuters by phone from Chandpur village, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) northwest of Kolkata.
The family decided to stand guard at night on Monday at the cow shed which also served as a hen coop, after 48 chickens went missing in a month.
"Instead of the dogs, we watched in horror as the calf, whom we had fondly named Lal, sneak to the coop and grab the little ones with the precision of a jungle cat," Gour Ghosh, his brother, said.
Local television pictures showed the cow grabbing and eating a chicken in seconds and a vet confirmed the case.
"We think lack of vital minerals in the body is causing this behavior. We have taken a look and have asked doctors to look into the case immediately," Mihir Satpathy, a district veterinary officer, said by phone.
"This strange behavior is possible in some exceptional cases," Satpathy said.
Hundreds of villagers flocked to Chandpur on Wednesday to catch a glimpse of Lal, enjoying his bundle of green grass for a change.
"The local vets said the cow was probably suffering from a disease but others said Lal was a tiger in his previous birth," Ajit added.