Once, pot-bellied pigs were all the rage. After that craze died down, iguanas became extremely trendy. And of course, black and white dogs always become popular when Disney revives the 101 Dalmatians franchise.
This year, the hot new pet might be: the mini-cow.
No, it’s not a new toy robot out of Japan, it’s a real cow, standing about 42 inches at the shoulder. Where a full grown steer can weigh up to 1500 lbs, mini-cattle only weigh up to 500 lbs.
Proponents of the bitty bulls say that you can pasture one of them on a reasonably small patch of land, they’re easy to handle, and they’re better “feed converters” — that is, it costs less to raise them and turn them into steaks.
So far, however, mini-moo buyers seem more interested in keeping them as pets. I can see why, as there would be several advantages:
Snob Appeal — You need about an acre of land to keep one properly, which means apartment dwellers and suburbanites with postage stamps for lawns can’t own any. And nothing says you’ve arrived like, um, your very own cow. Or something.
Free Lawn Mowing — Cattle really know how to keep the grass short. Side benefit: Since lawn mowers vibrate so much, once your cow has finished cutting the lawn, you’ll be able to serve milkshakes.
Very Green Grass — No more nasty lawn chemicals. Cattle provide lots of free, um, fertilizer.
Easier To Motivate Than A Teenager — Even if they didn’t naturally munch grass, you wouldn’t have to beg your cow to trim the backyard. Just say: “Hey, hamburger butt! How’s that lawn coming?”
Minimal Damage — As compared to a full-sized steer, if a mini-cow steps on your foot, it will only break and not, you know, crush it.
Dog Vs. Cat — A pet cow will not chase the cat or bark at the neighbours. A cow will not bring you dead mice, or spend all night singing on the fence post. (Well it might, but you’d have to get it very drunk first.)
On the other hand, keeping cattle for pets would also have some disadvantages:
A Guard Cow? — Cows are generally too docile to be good guard animals, although I suppose you could train yours to chew its cud in a threatening manner. A mini-bull would probably be *too* aggressive, as it would probably suffer from short bull’s syndrome.
Pass (on) the Milk — Wanna be ranchers will think having fresh milk daily is great until 1) They have to help the cow give birth in order to get her to start producing the stuff and 2) They have to go out twice daily to milk her.
Very VERY Green Grass — Cattle produce a lot of, um, fertilizer. If you plan to use your lawn for anything other than pasture, you’re either going to have to get a sturdy (and washable) pair of boots, or buy an industrial scooper.
Bo-ring — Cattle do not play fetch. They do not chase toy mice. Indeed, for play and companionship value, cattle rank only marginally higher than fish and lower than hamsters. (A hamster will at least look cute while running through a Habitrail. And if you tried building one of those big enough for your pet cow, it would be your neighbours that laughed so hard that milk came out of their noses).
Walkies? Ha! — You could not take a cow for a walk. Oh sure, you could put it on a leash, whistle, clap, and shout, but when 500 lbs of anything decides to stay still, you ain’t movin’ it.
Guilt Trip — Cattle don’t have many talents, but one thing they excel at is staring. Just try eating that steak dinner with Betsy peering in through the kitchen window for hours at a time.
So please, dear readers, think twice before purchasing any mini-cattle as pets for your kids, or to fulfill those latent rancher aspirations of yours. It would be a bigger cowmittment than you’d be willing to make.