ROY, Washington — John Bartheld has been breeding miniature cows on his farm for seven years, hoping to recreate black and white markings in the pattern of a panda to make a “panda cow.”
He succeeded on June 28 when Peanut was born. From most angles, Peanut looks like the endangered Chinese bear with a big belt of white fur, a white face and black hair around the eyes.
Peanut never strays far from his mom, Midget, who was artificially inseminated. Another panda cow born July 3, a half-sister named Star, has similar markings, but not as well-defined.
Peanut is different and he knows it, Bartheld said.
“He’s got that cocky attitude. From the minute I laid eyes on him I knew he was something special,” he said Friday.
“Peanut knew he was a superstar. It’s just the weirdest thing. I’ve never raised anything with this attitude — like he was born Tom Selleck,” Bartheld said. “He struts around the field like he’s in charge of the other calves and they follow him around. And he’s not the oldest calf.”
Bartheld runs nine cattle and five are registered miniatures. Two, Peanut and Star, are registered with The International Miniature Cattle Breeders Society, which is a division of Happy Mountain Farm in Covington.
The four other cattle are full-size cows sold as beef. The miniatures are a pet or novelty — “too expensive to butcher,” unless they grow too big.
“They butcher them all the time if they breed a miniature and it runs out 40-45 inches tall; it’s considered a mid-sized beef.”
Bartheld grew up around his grandparents’ dairy and the farm, now 11 acres, has been in the family four generations. He has a full-time job with a concrete company in Tacoma, but “I always knew I was going to have cows.”
A miniature cow has to be under 42 inches tall at 3 years old. A panda cow has to have the bear-like markings, mostly the white belt around the midsection.
“A lot of cows have black eyes and white faces; the white belt really sets it,” he said.
Peanut has been getting a lot of attention since a few stories hit the Internet.
“It’s gone bananas,” Bartheld said. He’s hearing from people he hasn’t talked to in 10 years.
“People drive by. They stop and back up and look. They love it,” he said.
Bartheld plans to sell Peanut, but he can’t guess what he’s worth. He said there are 30 to 40 panda cows in the world.
“Somebody’s got to want a cow like that. I’d like him to be a mascot for someone,” Bartheld said. “I think that would be kind of neat.”
Peanut also could be a sire when he grows to breeding age.
“He won’t fit into my breeding program because they’re all related to him,” Bartheld said.
Peanut’s parents are a mini-Hereford and a mini-American Beltie.
He’s got Midget the mom on the farm. The bull, Rebel, is at Happy Mountain Farm in Covington.
Bartheld says his farm is a solo operation.
“I have no kids. These things are kind of like my children,” he said. “I feed them the best hay I can. They’re well taken care of.”
Doug Esser in Seattle contributed to this report.