A COW has gone for a four-hour swim in the surf in a bizarre bovine spectacle before drowning off Queensland's coast.
The two-year-old Brahman-cross escaped from a nearby paddock during a muster at Elliott Heads, near Bundaberg, on Sunday and travelled 2km to where it was spotted by beachgoers paddling 300m out to sea.
Owner Neville Atkinson said when police phoned him to report his missing cow had been sighted swimming in the ocean it was the strangest thing he had ever heard.
"She jumped through the fence and raced down towards the ocean and that was the last they (the drovers) saw of her," Mr Atkinson said.
"We searched all along the ocean front ... well, we didn't look in the water, we didn't expect her to be in the water.
"She was probably a bit upset from the morning chase but why she went in the water I'll never know."
A crowd of more than 100 were drawn to the beach as word spread about the body surfing cow, which swam for three hours, coming to shore twice before returning to the waves.
Mr Atkinson and a friend eventually took a tinnie out to try to rescue the cow which was paddling in water around 7m deep but could not bring her to land.
She eventually drowned from swallowing water.
University of Queensland school of animal studies lecturer John Gaughan said it was the first time in 20 years he had heard of such strange behaviour.
Dr Gaughan, who researches cattle heat stress, said cows were good swimmers and often waded out into dams.
But he said to swim in the ocean for that long was bizarre.
"If it was very hot it might have been just trying to cool off but it's unusual behaviour to actually go out and start swimming around the ocean," he said.
"It is unusual, I've never seen anything like that."