After seven years of tinkering, farmer perfects 'panda cow'

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.

This article was published in nbcnews.com

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