What a Difference a Decade Can Make

How bulls are getting shorter.

When I started my role as the Director of the Canada Agriculture Museum (since renamed) in 2009, the definitive “rock star” in our bovine herd was Goody – a massive Hereford Bull. He was a mild-mannered giant that quietly amazed visitors with his impressive size in all aspects. Standing beside Goody felt like being next to a breathing and slow-chewing minivan.

Goody 2011

Fast forward to 2015: Goody died of natural causes at a ripe old age and shortly thereafter the search for a new bull began. The parameters for the search were simple: i) find a bull that was a prime specimen for the breed at that point in time; and ii) find a bull that was comfortable with crowds and frequent interpretation.

To our delight, a perfect match was found. Hercules weighed in at about 2,200 pounds, had been shown in local agricultural fairs, and had won multiple ribbons. Born in 2011 on a farm in Kingston, Ontario his pictures had the farm operations team interested enough to drive three hours to check on his behavior before agreeing to purchase him. After several weeks of paper work and veterinary checks, the much-awaited delivery day arrived and Hercules ambled his way off of the travel trailer amidst much fanfare and an excited crowd. After parading around the yard, Hercules was led into the barn and he made a beeline for the backscratching brush…and it was that moment that we all realized that Hercules was almost a foot and a half shorter than Goody had been! He was nowhere near tall enough to reach the bristles.

Hercules 2024

This made perfect sense, of course, the legs and feet on a bull can often be a weak point in their anatomy. Add to this that there are not a lot of steaks to be found below the shanks and we can understand why an ideal specimen would be significantly, and intentionally, shorter a decade later.

I am happy to report that the brush was lowered immediately for Hercules and he has been contentedly scratching ever since. I just wish I had taken a picture of him looking up forlornly at the out-of-reach brush!

Author: Kerry-Leigh Burchill, Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

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