Thu, Nov 29, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Fascination with Australia’s giant steer

The Guardian

Knickers the steer is pictured among a herd of cows in Lake Preston, Australia, in a still image from a video taken on Nov. 15.

Photo: AP / Channel 7’s Today Tonight

There is a giant cow named Knickers in Western Australia and people have gone crazy.

Technically, he is not a cow, but a steer (a neutered male), but he is giant, standing at 1.94m to the withers (shoulder).

This is just shy of the world record-holding steer, Bellino, who lives in Italy and stands at 2.02m.

Knickers, a Holstein Friesian, weighs in at 1,400kg and is believed to be the biggest steer in Australia.

For some reason, Knickers and his sizeable existence are the talk of the Internet, making news all over the world.

“It’s out of control,” said Geoff Pearson, Knickers’ owner, over the telephone from his property in Myalup, south of Perth. “I didn’t expect it to go as far as it has. I’ve been called every 10 minutes since 4am.”

It is, perhaps, no surprise that a country obsessed with building giant things to line its highways — the Big Watermelon has just joined the Big Banana, the Big Prawn and the Big Potato — would be fascinated by an oversized animal.

However, it is not only Australians who have taken to Knickers. Pearson said he has spent the day fielding calls from the UK, the US, Canada and New Zealand, and the story has been picked up by the BBC, CNN, USA Today and the Daily Mirror.

US model and social media genius Chrissy Teigen on Twitter said that she pays for WiFi on flights precisely so she does not miss out on news like this.

Why exactly are we fascinated by a large steer?

Pearson believes it is just a matter of novelty.

“I suppose it’s just a different topic,” he said. “It doesn’t happen every day, you don’t get a steer of that size in normal production systems and people like animal stories.”

This is certainly part of it, raising questions such as: Was he bred to be this size? Pumped full of hormones? Does this mark a dawning era of bovine megafauna? How did Knickers get so large?

“We don’t know that ourselves,” Pearson said. “It’s just a freaky thing.”

Partly it is because Knickers was given the chance to grow to his full height. Steers are usually sold to processing plants at the age of two or three.

“They probably don’t have the opportunity to grow to their full potential,” Pearson said. “There could be other animals that could grow to this size, but didn’t get the chance.”

However, Pearson believes that Knickers, who is seven, is a “standout.”

“You could go through thousands and thousands of animals and try to find one of this size and you wouldn’t be able to,” he said.

Plus, Knickers’ story is one of hope and reprieve. Pearson tried to offload him last month, only to be told by the meat processors that the steer was just too large for the abattoir.

“He’s too big for the chain, he’s out of spec, he’d be too heavy for the machines and he’d probably actually be hanging on the floor, so there would be contamination issues, and his cuts of meat would be too large,” Pearson said.

Which means that Knickers can live out his days on the 1,200 hectare property, home to 4,000 head of cattle, for whom he acts as a “coach” — showing them where to roam.

“He just hangs around; he’s part of the furniture,” Pearson said. “Obviously, he’s gained some stardom — that’s changed his identity a little bit. We’ll have to see what happens with that.”

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