I've heard of mini-Ditkas, Mini-Me and MINI Coopers, but I was completely oblivious to miniature livestock
until a conversation at work recently, when one of my employees told me that he wanted to get a mini-cow.
Mini-cow? Sounds more like a pet than a farm animal. I was astounded that they exist, but he also assured me that alpacas, goats, sheep and pigs are raised in smaller versions.
Probably the most visible miniatures are horses
. These have been raised since at least the 14th century, and have been popularized through the years by European royalty and native cultures. A miniature must be less than 38 inches tall, putting it in the size range of a large dog, and can be found in most colors and breeds. While they make excellent pets, these little horses also excel in competitive disciplines just like their larger relatives.
are less known, but gaining in popularity. To classify as a mini, a cow has to tip the scale at less than 700 pounds and cannot exceed 42 inches. This breed works well for the small farmer with less land, eats much less feed, and doesn’t require most of the heavy equipment of their full-sized counterparts. Many owners enjoy their mini-cows as pets, as they are labeled as very docile and love to be petted, brushed, and to play. These cows can also be raised for their dairy production and quality beef.
Nearly extinct, the miniature sheep
is making a comeback in the United States. This animal was once the prize of royalty but lost favor with farmers because of the lack of meat it produces. Called Babydoll Southdowns in the U.S., the mini-sheep is raised for its fine wool and meat, but are also kept in rural areas as grass trimmers.
While most of these livestock are compared to dogs in terms of both size and personality, miniature goats
take the cake. At full growth, they weigh 35 pounds and stand at only 16 inches. They are bred for their fiber, dairy, companionship for other animals, and as pets. These goats can not only be trained to walk with a leash, but can also be housebroken, and are said to be very affectionate and fun-loving.
Other miniatures of note include alpacas, llamas and donkeys. Alpacas are still relatively new to the United States, but as with all miniatures, they continue to grow in popularity. Donkeys are considered great pets with a hauling capacity of about 100 pounds.
And who can forget the pot-bellied pigs
made famous as pets of the Hollywood elite? Weighing in at less than 50 pounds, these animals can be litter box trained and live up to 25 years. They enjoy long walks and can be leash trained. These pigs are also great help with dinner, consuming most leftovers and saving a walk to the compost bin.
While I have yet to see a mini-cow, now that I know they exist, I will be on the lookout for them. I love animals and have kept many pets in my lifetime, including lizards, tarantulas, as well as the extraordinary friends I have in my cats and dog. But who could pass up a mini-goat? Or a bite-sized llama? Wouldn't they look great in our family photos?