Yesterday, the world was introduced to Knickers, an extremely large Australian bovine. The steer was a sight out there in the field, towering benevolently over his smaller female peers. (No, Knickers is not a cow. Cows are female cattle who have had a calf; a steer is a neutered male.) The very big boy is a Holstein Friesian, a breed that originated in North Holland and Northern Germany that humans have been breeding for dairy production over the last 2,000 years. He lives on cattle farmer Geoff Pearson’s property in Western Australia.
According to The Guardian, Knickers stands 6 feet, 4 inches from hoof to shoulder — that means he’s only three inches shorter than a Mewtwo — and he weighs approximately 1.5 tons, or a little more than a Toyota Corolla. While Knickers’ size is certainly his most obvious characteristic, it isn’t really the most salient.
“I am not sure he is so much a freak as just a tall Holstein,” Alison Van Eenennaam, a professor at UC Davis’ Department of Animal Science and a leading researcher in animal genomics, wrote in an email. “We have a steer in California that is 193 cm and the Guinness Book of Records has a Holstein cow that is 193 (6 foot 4 inches).” Danniel, the aforementioned Californian steer, died this year at eight years old. While he was still around, “he would eat 100 pounds of hay and 15 pounds of grain and drink 100 gallons of water a day,” wrote Honolulu’s Star-Advertiser.
Part of the reason Danniel and Knickers were able to grow so large is simply that they weren’t killed: Knickers is seven years old, and, according to the USDA, steers that are processed into meat are generally slaughtered before they reach age four. His current height and weight, Perth Now reported, saved him from an early death. (He wouldn’t fit through the processing machines.)
Eenennaam also pointed out that there are taller and heavier breeds than Holsteins, “like Chianina which is both the tallest and the heaviest breed of cattle,” she wrote. “Mature bulls stand up to 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in), and steers (castrated males) may reach 2 m (6 ft 7 in). It is not unusual for bulls to exceed 1,600 kg (3,500 lb) in weight – we just typically don’t keep Chianinas in Australia as maximum size is typically not optimum from a cost of production standpoint.”
Which is to say: they eat way more if they’re bigger. Eenennaam describes the now-famous picture of Knickers towering over his Wagyu cattle compatriots as “a bit like photographing a Great Dane in with a bunch of young black Labradors.”
Knickers 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 also could have held his own in ancient Europe, where giant bovines called aurochs roamed the land.
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. Though Knickers is only a bit shorter, he’ll live the rest of his life at the 3,000-acre farm, doing his job. He was bought for $400 to live as a coach among the other cattle, showing them how to live on a farm. As Pearson, Knickers’ owner, told The Guardian, “Obviously he’s gained some stardom – that’s changed his identity a little bit. We’ll have to see what happens with that.”