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Bovine identity

I usually occupy myself with matters natural, studying the “wild” animals and plants in our outdoor landscape. But as I walked through The Farmyard the other day I realized I had ignored the two cattle we have here at the museum.

Oh, I knew there were two of them, and they had names, Dusty and Dallas, but I hadn’t devoted a lot of time to which was which, how to tell them apart. They used to have ear tags with their names printed clearly, black on yellow, Dusty, Dallas. Not so anymore.

I was a bit embarrassed by the fact that I couldn’t, at a glance, tell one from the other. I decided to change that. I asked a few questions of the caretakers of the animals, the Animal Care Specialists, and did a little observational study on my own.

Dusty and Dallas are two miniature Hereford cattle that live in The Farmyard. You might not realize it by looking at them but they’re about half the size of a standard Hereford. This posting, however, is not about how big the two bovines are but whether or not you can distinguish one from the other, and how. They’re very similar.

Who is who?

Take a look at the two ungulates happily chewing their cud in the photo above. At first peep they look almost identical. But if you stare a bit longer you start to see quite a few differences in the two beasts. To start, the one of the left has a broader head. But that’s obvious, and just the beginning!

Look at the legs. The animal on the left has nearly all white legs (except for the front right leg), the other’s legs are brown. Pink nose, gray nose. White hair on the back of neck and crest, brown hair on the back of neck and crest.

That’s Dusty on the left and Dallas on the right.

Note that Dusty has a nearly all white dewlap. Dallas has brown fur spilling down on his dewlap. I could probably pick out more differences, but you get the picture.

Dusty. Note mostly white dewlap (flap of skin hanging from neck or throat).
Dallas. Note brown fur on dewlap (flap of skin hanging from neck or throat).

Can you see any differences that I missed?

Next time you’re in the farmyard, have a closer look at our “little” cattle and see if you can tell who’s who.