Plays Well with Udders

Earlier this week we not only celebrated Cow Appreciation Day, but the birthdays of Judy and Ruthie, our two Dexter cows. If you venture to the far corner of the ZooFarm, you can find these two lovely ladies basking in the sun, mooing at guests or eating their favorite produce and grain.

Judy and Ruthie are Dexter cattle, a species of cow originally from Ireland. This breed of cattle is typically used for both milk and meat, but here at the Virginia Zoo, their purpose is solely for educating the public.

Dexter cattle can be red, brownish/black or dun, which is a lighter tan color. Judy and Ruthie are both red. Although this species of cow is not considered to be miniature, they are considerably small when compared to other species of larger cows. Because of their size, these cows are perfect for small farms, such as the ZooFarm.

So what do Dexter cattle typically do on a farm? They are extensive eaters; clearing brush and eating as much hay and browse as they can. Farmers like having this species of cattle on their land because they help maintain the terrain by eating weeds.

Judy and Ruthie are pretty popular on the ZooFarm. Guests can usually come up to their enclosure and feel their backs or hear their loud moos. Judy and Ruthie have quite the personalities, but tend to never leave each other’s side.

Ruthie was born on July 12, 2002 on a private farm in Virginia. A little over a year later, she arrived at the Virginia Zoo and has been here since. Ruthie is the smallest of our two cows, but still keeps up her appetite. She’ll eat pretty much any type of grain and produce, but favors romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes and hay. Each day, Ruthie usually eats a small amount of grain, 1/3 bale of hay and she will also receive produce during training or enrichment sessions. Ruthie responds very well to puzzle feeders and barrels, which appear to be her favorite type of enrichment.

Ruthie last weighed in at a whopping 926 pounds, which is average for her height of 40 inches. Besides eating, she loves to receive scratches. It is pretty hard for her to reach that itch, so scratches from her keepers and the occasional guest feel moovelous! Her other favorite hobby appears to be rolling around in mulch, sand or gravel with her exhibit mate, Judy.

Judy Buttons, or just Judy for short, is the Virginia Zoo’s other Dexter cow. She’s slightly larger and darker than Ruthie, weighing in at an astounding 1166 pounds! Judy enjoys the same foods and activities as Ruthie, but favors puzzle feeders and barrels more than training sessions.

Judy’s birthday occurs just two days before Ruthie’s – on July 12. She is also 15 years old and came from the same private farm as Ruthie. The two are an inseparable duo due to the fact they have spent their entire lives together.

Next time you’re at the ZooFarm, be sure to stop by and see Judy and Ruthie. They’re hard to miss!

Want to know more about the cows at the Virginia Zoo? Check out our #CreatureFeatureFriday on Facebook and Twitter. ZooFarm Keeper Brenda answers the public’s questions about a few of our cattle residents!