There were 94.5 million head of cattle in the US in 2009. Many millions of cows and bulls have lived relatively short uneventful lives over the years producing milk and calves or ultimately steaks and hamburgers. Among those millions are a few who made the news and then the history books for one reason or another.
1. The Original Flying Cow
A cow known as Nellie Jay to locals later became known as Elm Farm Ollie nationwide in 1930 when she had the distinction of becoming the first bovine ever to fly in an airplane. Nellie Jay was flown from her farm in Bismarck, Missouri to the International Aviation Exhibition in St. Louis because she was such a productive milker. In fact, she was milked in flight and the 24 quarts of milk was packaged in cartons and dropped from the plane, with small parachutes attached.
2. Calf with New Legs
Last year, Nancy Dickenson of Ocate, New Mexico and her stepdaughter Martha found an 11-month-old calf on a neighbor's ranch that was suffering from severe frostbite. The Black Angus heifer had lost the use of her back legs and hooves. Dickenson found the calf's owner, then took Meadow to Colorado State University's veterinary school, where her back legs were amputated. In a move rare for livestock, the staff and students at the school fitted the calf with two prosthetic legs. Meadow now lives with Dickenson to Twin Willows Ranch, where she is treated like a family pet.
3. The Cow in the Silo
In 1949, a Hereford cow in Oklahoma later named Grady was having trouble calving. The veterinarian tied her down and she delivered a stillborn calf. When Grady was freed, she charged farmer Bill Mach and plunged through a small opening into the grain silo. The hole through which she entered was only 17 inches wide and 25 inches high! The cow remained in the silo for three days, happily munching silage, while newspapers nationwide speculated on ways to get Grady out. Ralph Partridge, a farm reporter from the Denver Post, went to Oklahoma and entered the silo. He milked Grady, covered her in axle grease, and tied her with rope. A veterinarian sedated the cow. While Mach pulled, Partridge and another man pushed, and finally Grady was out of the silo, and enshrined in journalistic history. She later produced healthy calves and lived until 1961. A 1950 children's book, Grady's in the Silo by Una Belle Townsend, brought more fame.
4. Big Horned Lurch
The African Watusi steer named Lurch holds the Guinness World Record for the biggest horns, as in circumference. His horns measured 38 inches around at the widest point, and spanned seven-and-a-half feet from tip to tip! Lurch lived for fourteen years at Rocky Ridge Refuge in Arkansas, a respectably long life for a steer, but he succumbed to a cancer that formed in the base of his horns and died last month.
5. Houdini Heifer
In 2002, America was taken with the story of a cow who didn't want to enter the slaughterhouse at Ken Meyers Meats. Can you blame her? The white Charolais cow broke away from the rest of the herd and jumped a 6-foot fence to roam the streets of Cincinnati, Ohio. By the time she was captured eleven days later, she was a hero to many for her determination and will to survive. Sending her back to the slaughterhouse would have been a public relations disaster. Instead, the SPCA took custody of the cow dubbed Charlene Mooken (a play on the name of Cincy's mayor at the time, Charlie Luken). Artist Peter Max donated artwork to the SPCA and arranged for the cow to be housed at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York. Renamed Cincinnati Freedom, she lived a pastoral life there until her death at age 13 in 2008.
6. Taft's Milk Supply
President Taft kept a Holstein-Frisian cow named Pauline Wayne on the White House grounds to provide milk for the first family. The cow was a gift from a Wisconsin senator. Pauline Wayne served her country for three years, during which she was a press favorite, and returned to her original farm in Wisconsin after Taft left office. She was the last cow ever kept at the White House.
7. The Homecoming Queen
Maudine Ormsby of Columbus, Ohio became famous when she was elected the 1926 homecoming queen at Ohio State University. Maudine was a Holstein cow that had been nominated by the students of the College of Agriculture. All the other nominees were disqualified for voting irregularities. Maudine participated in the homecoming parade, but did not attend the dance after the game.