04:33:42 pm on
Thursday 13 Jun 2024

The Statuesque Cow
David Simmonds

Springbank Snow Countess

When I was a young near do well, I courted and subsequently married a girl from Woodstock, Ontario. The highlight of any visit to Woodstock, apart from the courting itself, was a walk to the statue of the world champion butterfat producer. That’s the cow named Springbank Snow Countess.

Homage a world famous cow.

The Countess lived in Woodstock from 1919 to 1936. During her abbreviated lifetime, she produced some 9,062 pounds of butterfat. She died during a heatwave after calving, at seventeen. The Holstein Friesian Association of Canada created the monument after her death.

Life sized and set on top of a modest plinth, at the entrance to town. The statue testifies to the glorious output of the Countess. It’s set back from the street and somewhat overshadowed by a busy McDonalds and the nearby Toyota plant.

It thus came as a shock to read, the other day, of a statue of a cow in a new subdivision development in Markham, Ontario. My first reaction was, “How dare they do such a thing? Woodstock has cornered the market on cow statues.” Upon mature reflection, I realized there is probably no market in cow statues to corner and therefore nothing to stop Markham from erecting its own cow memorial.

The force behind the Markham project is Helen Roman-Barber, the daughter of the late mining magnate Stephen Roman. The Markham statue resides on the site of a farm once owned by the elder Roman, whose hobbies included breeding show cattle. The statue is homage to his champion cow.

The official name of the Markham cow is Brookview Tony Charity. I must say, she was a very impressive champion cow. The elder Roman bought her in 1985, from a farmer in Port Perry, Ontario. He paid a record $1.45 million, a little shy of the $US 262 million the PSG soccer team just paid Barcelona for the Brasilin star Neymar. Still, it was a high price for a cow.

Charity appears to have been a good investment. According to the online magazine thebullvine.com, she tops the list of the eight greatest North American show cows of all time. The author, of the article on thebullvine.com, says there is “no comparison” to Charity. “Never defeated in her class,” she was “incredible perfection.” Just as well, she never had to compete head to head with the Countess.

The Markham sculpture, of Charity, is not an ordinary cow statue, if there is such a thing. Finished in polished chrome, it sits on stilts. The height is eight metres.

A close up visitor has a good view of the undercarriage, of the cow. An approaching visitor will be able to spot the monument without difficulty. Valued at $1.2 million, close to what her father paid for Charity, Roman-Barber donated the statue and its installation.

The statue is getting a decidedly mixed reaction from its neighbours. "We don't like it. It scares the children," said one resident. An 11-year old reportedly said, “I think it's strange to see the cow's butt every morning.” Sightseers are now flocking to see the sculpture and there is pressure on Roman-Barber to relocate it.

Roman-Barber is sticking to her guns.

She insists that the rightful place of the statue is exactly where it now stands, on Charity Crescent, which was right where Charity spent her time between show gigs. Roman-Barber points to approval by the appropriate levels of government and advance disclosure of her plans to purchasers. Besides, she says, “To us, history is important, the most important.”

Maybe she has a point. Perhaps it’s time we started to mark history a little more by the creatures that help the people who end up atop statues. Just look at all the problems they’ve been having in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the statue of Edward Cornwallis, the founder of Halifax, now reviled for his genocidal treatment of the indigenous population. If Halifax had a statue of a cow from a breed dating back to the days of Cornwallis, instead of Cornwallis, himself, maybe the controversy wouldn’t be quite as sharp.

More than defusing controversy, cow statues can also create buzz. For instance, there is an event called “Cow Parade.” It originated in Switzerland, in 1998. The first such parade in North America happened in Chicago, in 1999.

If a cow-statue buzz develops, dozens of artist-decorated cow sculptures, mostly sponsored by local businesses, will appear overnight, attracting, so the theory goes, tourists and recouping costs at an auction at the end of the season. This event was the inspiration behind Toronto mayor, Mel Lastman, and his infamous, “Moose in the City” project. Subsequently, such event been held in Denver, Kansas City, Manchester, England, Santa Catarina, Brazil, Perth, Australia, Bilbao, Spain and Toulouse, France. It has also spawned a number of knockoff attempts.

9,062 pounds of butterfat.

We’ve come a long way from the Countess, a sedate statue, to Charity, eight-metres of chrome high as well as multitudinous pop up cows. As the local icon of my spouse’s hometown, she’ll always enjoy a place close to my heart. This is a great deal of butterfat, 9,062 pounds, by any measure.


Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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