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6 Things You Didn’t Know About Cows

Calves In Field

Cattle represents a large portion of our livelihoods, but many people don’t think about what exactly makes these beasts unique. Sure, we want to be certain they have appropriate care and adequate comforts, but for most of us, that’s where the relationship ends. In this article, we’ll look at a few interesting facts and stories about cows that even the most seasoned rancher may not know.

Cows in Motion: The Sky Queen of 1930

On February 18, 1930, a Guernsey named Elm Farm Ollie made history by being the first cow to fly in an airplane. The flight, which was probably made for the important scientific purpose of “seeing what would happen if a cow flew in an airplane,” took place at the St. Louis International Air Exposition. During the 72-mile trip from Bismarck, Missouri, Elm Farm Ollie also became the first animal milked mid-flight, with the spoils distributed via parachute to spectators below.

The Chicago Fire: A Subject of Heated Debate

Arguably the most famous cow in American history is also the most unjustly maligned. While there was a Mrs. O’Leary and she did own cows, there’s no evidence to suggest that any were responsible for starting the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In fact, contemporary research pins the cause of the fire on a neighbor who slipped while sneaking into the barn to smoke a pipe. Mrs. O’Leary and her cows were ultimately vindicated more than a century later when, in 1997, they received a formal exoneration from the Chicago Committee on Police and Fire.

Sacred Cows

A lot of people think that Hinduism involves the worship of cows — after all, that’s where the term “sacred cow” comes from, right? The truth is a bit more nuanced. In Hinduism, all animals are sacred. Cows, in particular, are a symbol of wealth, life and nourishment, in part because of their role in producing milk and fertilizer. While there are designated festivals for honoring the important role cows play in Hindu society, they are not worshiped in the sense that we understand the term.

Blind as a Bull

The persistent popularity of bullfighting in certain parts of the world is a hotly contested topic. Some people argue that it’s an important cultural tradition, while others claim it is needlessly cruel and glorifies violence against animals. One commonly held belief about the practice is that the bull is attracted to the red cape a matador uses to bait it. In reality, cattle are colorblind — the color red is traditionally used to disguise the blood that is spilled when the bull is attacked.

The Cattle Stamp-ede

Cows are the subject of one of the most famous American stamps, known as Western Cattle in Storm. A perennial candidate for the title of most beautiful stamp ever made, Western Cattle in Storm was first printed in 1898 in a series of nine designs commemorating the Trans-Mississippi Exposition of that year. One interesting fact about this stamp is that the cattle depicted — its design was based on a John MacWhirter painting known as The Vanguard — was a Scottish breed that wasn’t native to the U.S. at the time.

Meet Maudine Ormsby

In a move that can only be described as “ahead of its time,” local Holstein Maudine Ormsby was voted Ohio State University’s homecoming queen in 1926. Though she officially came in second, Maudine was able to accept the title after other candidates stepped down in light of voting irregularities, bringing a much-needed sense of stability to an confused campus.

What’s your favorite cow-related fact or story?

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