Unless you live in burrows, height is generally considered to be a genetic advantage for species. Cows are generally docile creatures that stand tall anywhere from 100 cm to 170 cm. Holstein Friesian is a breed that originated in North Holland and Northern Germany and has been used for dairy production since 2000 years. They are considered to be the tallest bovines on the planet, along with Chianina and mature bulls. Recently, an Australian Holstein Friesian called Knickers gained worldwide attention as it was pictured standing tall among a group of Wagyu cattle in a farm.
Knickers is technically a steer, a neutered male, who lives on cattle farmer Geoff Pearson’s property in Western Australia. He stands at 193 cm and weighs an astounding 1.5 tons – little more than conventional cars. However, that still doesn’t make him the tallest recorded bovine in history. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tallest living steer is a Chianina named Bellino, who stands about 6 feet, 7 inches tall. The record book also bears the mention of another Holstein cow dawning the same height.
Alison Van Eenennaam, a professor at UC Davis’ Department of Animal Science and a leading researcher in animal genomics, has refused to call Knickers a freak. “He is more like a tall Holstein’, she said. She also mentions a California steer called Danniel, who was just as tall as Knickers. She said, “While Danniel was still around, he would eat 100 pounds of hay and 15 pounds of grain and drink 100 gallons of water a day.”
So why did steers such as Danniel and Knickers manage to grow so large? Here is where the story takes a dark turn. They weren’t butchered owing to their large size as they couldn’t be fit into processing machines. According to the USDA, steers that are processed into meat are generally slaughtered before they reach age four. However, Danniel lived till he was eight and Knickers is in his seventh year. Their height and weight saved them from death.
The Washington Post recently ran an article discrediting the picture of Knickers among a group of female cows, calling it a hoax. After several other pictures and video discredited them, they were also shared in social media space. Eenennaam has described the now-famous picture as “a bit like photographing a Great Dane in with a bunch of young black Labradors.” She also said, “nickers might blend in more if he’d been pictured hanging out with a herd of gaur, which are wild cattle from India that regularly grow to about 6 feet at the shoulder.” He would also have fit right in among a group of aurochs, giant bovines that roamed ancient Europe.
Originally bought for $400 to live as a coach among the other cattle, Knickers will live the rest of his life at the 3,000-acre farm, doing his job of showing other cattle’s how to live in the environment. His owner stated that, “Obviously he’s gained some stardom – that’s changed his identity a little bit. We’ll have to see what happens with that.”