How Now, Brown Cow?

The ZooFarm is one of the most diverse areas of the Zoo, but not because of its brightly colored buildings. More than a dozen species from nearly every continent can be found here, from tiny tree shrews and screaming birds to 150-pound alpacas. While most of the animals at the Zoo are considered wild species, many animals in the ZooFarm are more domesticated, including our Miniature zebu.

Miniature zebu are a small breed of cattle, only growing to be approximately 42 inches tall and weighing around 600 pounds. They originated in southern Asia and were imported to the United States in the 1920s. This breed of cattle is easily identified by the fatty hump on their shoulders and a dewlap, or flap of skin, under their necks.  Zebu are considered sacred animals in India, whereas other countries use them for milk or meat. They are parasite and disease resistant and can also thrive in warmer climates, so farmers also use them for light agriculture work.

Clover, the Zoo’s female zebu, was born on March 11, 2016 at a small farm in Virginia. She arrived at the Virginia Zoo two months later and has been a Zoo favorite since. She weighs just under 350 pounds, measures five feet from nose to rear and is still a growing girl. Clover is bursting with personality and is friendly in nature, often stopping near the fence in her exhibit to receive scratches from Zoo staff and guests – when she feels like it. There are two things Clover is more fond of than scratches: treats and walks!

Clover is halter trained and recently got a new harness after outgrowing her previous one. She goes on walks every day with her Keepers around the Zoo to meet visitors and graze on patches of grass. Sometimes her sheep friends Alvin and Simon also join her on walks and often spend time with her on exhibit. Clover can also display behaviors when her Keepers ask, such as turning in a circle. Sweet potato sticks and lettuce are given to her as treats for displaying certain behaviors.

Zebu are listed as least concern in regards to conservation status. This breed of cattle is domesticated and has no major threats to any populations around the world. These animals are often used for education, such as for 4-H programs and in zoos. Clover is an ambassador for her breed, giving Zoo guests the opportunity to learn about her relatives and why many cow breed are important. Her adorable looks and vibrant personality are also a perk of having her at the Zoo. Next time you’re in the ZooFarm, be sure to stop by to see her and, if she lets you, give her some scratches under her neck!