- Three animals were dehydrated and distressed but ultimately fine, owner says
- Cows initially stranded after deadly quake on New Zealand's South Island
Their owner said the rescue was delayed because of fears the ground could crumble.
"It was a difficult exercise," Derrick Millton, the farmer who owns the cows, told CNN. "We dug a path for them, and once they realized what was happening they meandered their way across to safety."
The beef cows -- two adults and a calf -- were without water for 24 hours. They were part of a larger group of about 14 cows that were recovered.
Millton said he suffered livestock losses in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake
, which hit early Monday near Kaikoura, a small tourist town of about 3,500 people.
The three cows had been happily chewing cud when the deadly quake rocked the country's South Island,
swallowing the earth around them.
"They were very fortunate that they happened to be in a place that didn't break up too much," Mllton said.
Footage of the stranded cows from the New Zealand news service Newshub went viral on Twitter in the hours after the quake.