Clifton College Website

Student Contributions

Jacob Dirnhuber
Lower Sixth
School House

Flying Cattle Class

Flying Cattle Class

The coming Friday will be February 18 — historically, this day has seen the first of a line of famous events. In 1861, Victor Emmanuel II was announced as the first King of Italy. In 1901, Winston Churchill made his first speech to the House of Commons. In 1911, for the first time in aviation history, mail was delivered in an aeroplane and more bizarrely perhaps in 1930, for the first time in aviation history, a cow was transported in an aeroplane.

The cow in question was a two year old Guernsey born in Bismarck, Missouri. Her name was “Elm Farm Ollie”, and after her flight, “sky queen”. She was unusually productive, requiring three milkings per day at Bismarck’s Sunnymede farm and producing 24 quarts of milk on her flight.

Her flight was intended as an experiment to observe the effects of altitude on animals, but it quickly turned into a publicity stunt to advertise milk. The flight itself was 72 miles, from Bismarck to St. Louis, landing in the midst of the St. Louis International Air Exposition. However, the landing was complicated by enthusiastic crowds on the landing field, meaning that the landing would not take centre stage as originally planned.

On the aeroplane, she was milked by a young man named Elsworth Bunce, chosen because his father, William, was a patron of the American Guernsey Cattle Club. The milk was bottled, sealed, and then parachuted down to the waiting crowds. Local legend has it that Charles Lindbergh, the American aviator famous for being the first man to fly solo from New York to Paris, received a glass of this milk. Elm farm Ollie died in 1938, yet her legacy lives on in Wisconsin. Every year they celebrate Elm farm Ollie day, the anniversary of the event. Her story has been re-told in the form of cartoons, poems, stories and even an opera named ‘Madam Butterfat’. I end with its final verse:

"Sing we praises of that moo cow,
Airborne once and ever more,
Kindness, courage, butter, cream cheese,
These fine things we can’t ignore."

14 February 2011

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