The procession of the Panathenaic festival accompanied cattle and sheep to the Acropolis, where they were slaughtered at a great altar. In the rendering of the procession on the Parthenon frieze, ten cattle were shown on the south frieze, while four cattle and four sheep were shown on the north.
The beast shown here has been immortalized in the poet John Keats' 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' as the 'heifer lowing at the skies'. Keats seems to have derived his imagery from several pieces of sculpture, possibly including an ancient marble vase that cannot now be identified.
The unfortunate heifer is trying to break free from its minders. Three youths in long cloaks (himatia) struggle to restrain it. Their draperies contrast pleasingly with the broad, flat flank of the animal.