Based on life stories of ex-slaves from Ethiopia now living in Israel, the present article attempts to uncover complex relationships and conceptions of intimate domination and subjugation. The dramatic passage of masters and slaves from rural Ethiopia to the democratic State of Israel enables their stories to emerge. Hearing these personal stories became possible when continuous slavery taken for granted in one particular cultural context became alien and unbearable in another. Key images at the basis of Ethiopian slavery constitute an ample reservoir for new interpretations, in which hidden aspects are brought into relief within a new reality. The present article focuses on cows as an organising image through which complex master–slave (Choa–Barya) relations are decoded. It explores the centrality of this image for these exploitative, complex relations, both in Ethiopia and following the move to Israel. The cow figures prominently as the embodiment of a range of concrete and symbolic meanings, particularly in the most intimate details of master–slave power relations and hierarchies.