Dallas and Dusty, the newest inhabitants at the Museum of Life and Science's Farmyard, might be "miniature" in name, but there's nothing tiny about them. At about 600 pounds each, the Miniature Hereford bulls are just about full grown.
"They won't get much taller," said Sherry Samuels, director of the museum's animal department, "but they should get more stocky."
The two Miniature Hereford bulls, on permanent loan from Spring Trail Ranch in Hillsborough, went on exhibit in early March. Already, they're drawing a crowd to their new home.
They've taken over the enclosure once home to Max, the friendly and beloved steer who died in July and was mourned by museum visitors and staff. They can't replace Max, who greeted museum goers with smiles and sidled up to the fence for nose rubs and greetings. But they do offer kids a chance to see cattle up close.
"Max was irreplaceable," Samuels said. "They are not Max. It's impossible to fill Max's shoes - both literally and figuratively - but they will have each other and people will get to see cattle."
Max weighed as much as 1,800 pounds. But Dusty and Dallas will surely become new personalities for the Farmyard. The breed is known for being extremely docile and highly trainable. Museum staff did expand the enclosure to about twice its original size to make sure there's enough room for both of them. Stumps are placed at one end of the space for them to play with and rub against.
Right now, museum staff and the bulls are getting to know each other. Dallas, for instance, is the more docile of the two. Dusty, on the other hand, doesn't mind getting brushed. Dusty has the wipe stripe along his back. Dallas doesn't. (The two do have yellow tags on their ears with their names).
Samuels' crew also is working to train them to, for instance, get a halter on so they can step over to the scales for weigh ins. The two might eventually be led around by leash from time to time for walks around the museum like some of the farmyard's other animals.
"There are things that we are learning as we play out the initial dance with each other," Samuels said.
Dusty and Dallas join alpacas, donkeys, goats and other animals in the museum's Farmyard. Their yard is the last of four yards to get an upgrade in the last few years. Other additions have included a horse trailer that kids can walk in, a real scale and a pretend chicken play area. By late this spring, the museum plans to have real chickens roosting here.
The museum shared these fun facts about Hereford cattle and miniature breeds:
- The Hereford breed of beef cattle originated in the mid 1700s in Herefordshire, England and were first brought to the United States during the 1840s.
- In the 1950s, the modernization of farming and the higher demand for beef led to a demand for larger animals; beef cattle were subsequently selected and bred for the "standard" size we know today.
- During the 1960s breeding efforts began in the United States to produce smaller cattle; over the next 3 decades breeding efforts continued to select for miniature traits.
- The modern Miniature Hereford is closer in size to the original British breed than most standard size Hereford cattle. This is true of most beef cattle and their corresponding miniature breed.
The Farmyard opens at 10 a.m. when the Durham museum is open, which is daily from March to September. It's free with admission, which is $16 for adults and $11 for kids ages 3 to 12.
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