A Record-Breaking Irish Cow Plus Other Tall (and Short) Farmyard Tales


The Guinness Book of Records plays host to some truly amazing achievements, covering every feat you can think of (and even a few you can’t). Farm related record breakers come in all shapes and sizes – biggest cow in the world, smallest cow, wooliest sheep ever. There’s even a few Irish ones in the mix.

Big Bertha

Irish Droimeann cow, Big Bertha, was a record breaker in more ways than one.  She holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest ever cow, having lived to the grand old age of 49; Bertha died in 1993 and hasn’t been outlived by another cow yet. She also gave birth to 39 calves in her lifetime, the most number of calves ever produced by a single cow.

Jerome O’Leary from Sneem in Co. Kerry bought Bertha as a calf, and was very proud of her achievements, which extended further than just age and calf production by the way. Bertha raised thousands of euro for cancer charities during her lifetime, and led several St. Patrick’s Day parades in Sneem. According to Jerome (now deceased), she would need a shot of whiskey to steady her nerves before these auspicious public appearances.

Bertha received a fine Irish send-off when she died, with a wake at the local pub. Her death made national and international news. And even though she’s not with us anymore, her legend lives on – she was stuffed after her death, so you can actually  pay her a visit. She even has her own brand of gin called Bertha’s Revenge.

Tallest Cow

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s tallest ever cow was Blosom, from Illinois in the U.S.A. This giant of a beast received her title in 2014, just a year before her death. She stood at 6 feet 2 inches.

There are other contenders for the crown. Although he can’t claim Blosom’s title because he’s a steer, Knickers towers over the rest of his herd. This Australian Holstein is 6 feet 4 inches and weighs 3,000 pounds.

However, what makes Knickers so special is his age. It’s possible for mature Holstein steers to grow to enormous sizes – they just don’t usually live long enough. But Knickers has been lucky enough to live to the ripe old age of 8 and counting. In 2018, he hit the news because he was so big he couldn’t be sold at auction. Potential buyers said he wouldn’t fit into their slaughter house equipment. Clever boy, Knickers, just keep growing.

Shortest Cow

We’ve seen the biggest cow in the world, now for the smallest. The world’s shortest cow is a little cutie, standing at just over two feet tall. Manikyam, a Vechur cow from India, has held the record since 2014.

Manikyam lives in India’s Kerala region, where the climate is hot and humid. Local vet, Dr. Muhammed, explained to the Guinness Book of Records that the Vechur breed can produce dwarf cows depending on the regional climate. Scientists think these cows carry a “thermometer gene” that allows them to survive in hotter climates by stunting their growth. In other places, where weather conditions are more suited to rearing cattle, they can grow to five feet.

world's shortest cow beside a regular cow

Interestingly, Vechur cows are also highly resistant to infection, and can even withstand foot-and-mouth disease. Small, strong, adaptable and cute – this cow has it all apparently.

The title of world’s shortest bull was held by an Irish bull until a couple of years ago. Archie, a Dexter from Co. Antrim, measuring 30 inches tall, received his title in 2012. It has since been usurped by a rather smug American bull called Humphrey who stands at 26.6 inches.

Record Breaking Tractors

Irish farming record breakers don’t end with Big Bertha. As a nation, we are the proud holders of not one, but two, tractor-related records.

In 2007, a one hundred acre field in Cooley, Co. Louth, played host to 4,572 vintage tractors all ploughing simultaneously. Tractor enthusiasts came from every county in Ireland to take part alongside tractors from England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, South Africa and the U.S.A.

And in 2014, a total of 726 Ferguson tractors from Ireland, England, Scotland and The Netherlands came together to create a record for the most number of tractors of the same brand working together. The event was organised by the White Cross Vintage Association and took place at the Grianan Estate in Co. Donegal.

World’s Wooliest Sheep

When Chris the sheep was discovered in the Australian outback in 2015, his fleece was so overgrown that he couldn’t walk properly. The Australian RSPCA took him in and sheared him. His fleece weighed 90lbs, the same as eight regular fleeces, earning Chris the Guinness World Record for the most wool sheared from a sheep.

Chris the world's wooliest sheep

Named after the troubled sheep in Father Ted, poor Chris had spent years wandering about in the Australian sun wearing the equivalent of thirty woolly jumpers. It would make you think, perhaps there are other animals more suited to farming in the outback than our woolly friends.

Life improved for Chris after his haircut. He was taken in by an animal sanctuary where he happily spent the rest of his days. His death last year was widely reported in the news; it seems Chris had earned a big place in our hearts.

It took 45 minutes to shear Chris’s record breaking fleece. Perhaps they should have asked Ivan Scott to do the job – he’s the Irish man who holds the world record for the fastest time to shear a sheep. Ivan set his record in Co. Westmeath in 2010, when he sheared a sheep in 37.9 seconds.

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