Stranded cows 'surfed' to survival

A geologist says the cows stranded on a quake island likely "surfed" the land as it crumbled around them.

Their image went around the world; two Hereford cows and a calf stranded on a tiny piece of pasture thrust two-and-a-half metres above the ground.

GNS engineering geologist Sally Dellow flew over the cows yesterday with Newshub, and she says they likely surfed the land as it crumbled.

"They were very lucky that the bit of pasture they're on, which is at the top of the hill, has survived its trip down the hill, because there's a lot of pasture that didn't survive," she said.

Farmer Derrick Millton knew his cows were in trouble moments after the earthquake struck, but had to wait until this morning to rescue them.

"We cut a track with shovels and encouraged them down. They're quiet but they’ve had a terrible ordeal," he said.

"You're a clever cow to skip and dance while the land beneath you is disappearing down the hill."

The footage, taken by Newshub, has been seen around the world.

They were among 14 cows marooned after the land was torn from the hillside.

The land moved a significant distance in the quake - some trees are now positioned 80 metres beneath their original position. 

The rescued cows are now on firmer and flatter ground.