Police in western Siberia were looking for a herd of 163 cows that disappeared after the shepherds fell into what appeared to be medically-induced slumber.
The daring heist was perpetrated in broad daylight, with the shepherd and his apprentice knocked out for four hours after lunch, Omsk Region police said on Thursday.
Both men were hospitalized with food poisoning on awakening, police said in a statement. The remains of their apparently spiked lunch were handed over to police experts for examination.
The herd went missing while the shepherds were asleep, the report said. Six search parties were deployed in the local steppe, and police in neighboring Kazakhstan were alerted, but no trace of the missing cattle was found as of Thursday evening.