What happened to the hundreds of fiberglass cows that once roamed the city?

Photo by Katie Henrichs.

Ben Casey’s cow is always rooting for the home team. Depending on the season, the nearly life-size heifer, in its yard south of the Plaza, switches its allegiance between the Chiefs and the Royals.

The cow is not repainted every season. And it is not—as some people have supposed—two separate cows. Rather, Casey’s cow is split by side, half-Chiefs, half-Royals.

Talk about milking a cow for all it’s worth.

Twenty years ago, one of the city’s most notable public art projects came to town—in the form of hundreds of fiberglass bovines. Kansas City was one of the first locations worldwide to host a Cow Parade, and local artists, including designer Kate Spade, brought unique touches to the standing, grazing or reclining cows.

Next year, a similar project will come to the city: A Parade of Hearts will appear in the Heartland. Original artwork created in the shape of the “KC heart” will be placed around Kansas City in the early spring of 2022.

Casey says his cow is a conversation starter and that “there’s always somebody slowing down and taking a picture” or stopping to talk. When people ask where he lives, Casey tells them there’s a cow in his yard “and they know right where it’s at,” he says.

Casey acquired the cow in the early 2000s from St. Teresa’s Academy, where he was working in maintenance. The cow originally had a clock design and was titled, “A Cow in Time Saves 9.” Casey says the clock motif didn’t speak much to him, so his son repainted it with the sports theme. Once, when the Chiefs blew a good game, Casey hid the cow. In its place, he put four pieces of white four-inch pipe in the ground and attached hooves to the ends, as though the cow had dropped dead.

Here are the stories behind other landmark livestock.

Moo Skies

It was the spring of 2002 when a delivery man appeared on Tatia Batz’s front door and said, “We have a cow for you.”

“I said, ‘What?’” Batz recalls.

It was Moo Skies: a blue cow with white clouds who was originally stationed outside the KCK courthouse.

Unbeknownst to Batz, her husband had bid on a Cow Parade cow in an online auction. He hadn’t realized he’d won until the cow appeared on their doorstep, and he received a call from his shocked wife. Her husband had grabbed an opportunity by the horns. Since that spring, Batz and her husband have kept the cow, and it now resides in their backyard.

“You can usually see it as you come up Rockwell,” Batz says. But, “You’d have to be looking for it.”

As it turns out, having Cow Parade cows runs in the family. Batz’s mother-in-law has a Monet-themed Cow Parade cow at her home in Florida.

Planter’s Cow

If you’ve ever been asked to spot Dorothy in downtown Kansas City, she’s inside Planters Seed & Spice Co.

It was about seven years ago that the River Market business acquired one of Kansas’ most famous characters—in cow form. Geoff Myer, manager at Planter’s, said the cow attracts a lot of attention.

“In fact, some of these downtown businesses [have scavenger hunts] with their new trainees and employees and they’ll send them to find Dorothy,” Myer says.

Dorothy originally belonged to friends of the owners of Planters. When they no longer wanted her, they suggested Dorothy move to the store. Now the cow, adorned in a painted-on blue gingham dress, pigtails and two sparkly red heels, sits behind the central window on display for all to appreciate

Plaza Library Cow

After twenty years, the Plaza cow is right where it should be: in the children’s section of the Kansas City Public Library’s Plaza branch.

April Roy, the library’s director of employee success, says she and the cow “go way back.” Roy and her coworker have both been with the library for sixteen years.

The Plaza cow resided outside Commerce Bank on the Plaza for years, but when the Plaza Library had its grand reopening in 2005, Commerce Bank brought the cow over and put it in the children’s department. It’s been a treasured staple of the section since.

“The cow is so popular and so beloved here that if it wasn’t their plan to leave it, I’m really glad it became their plan because this cow gets so much love,” Roy says. “Every kid that comes back here loves the cow and talks to the cow and pets the cow.”

The Plaza cow gets so much love, in fact, that it becomes udderly dirty. An art restorer who once fixed the cow’s ear and gave it a cleaning said the cow was the dirtiest piece of art they had ever cleansed.

The cow has been involved in many of the library’s events, and it always dresses the part.

“She was dressed up like Elsa one time for a big winter festival we did,” Roy says. “Now, she’s got her mask on. She’s just really part of the culture of this library.”

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