There have been many spontaneous portraits that appeared, like magic, in the strangest places. The face of Satan in a billowing cloud of volcanic ash. The face of Jesus on a burnt piece of toast. A potato chip shaped like the head of Abraham Lincoln. Few of these receive national recognition. When a cow from Maine was born with three black spots in the shape of Mickey Mouse, however, she would become the most famous cow on Earth.

Zac McDorr is the founder of the Bath Maine History Center on Facebook.You can reach him at [email protected]

Austin and Linda Moore owned a dairy farm in North Whitefield. In 1988, a photography student named Victoria Chiudina visited the farm to take pictures of the animals. She noticed that one of the cows, Maiden, had three black spots in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head on her side. She sent the photo to Disney, and they reached out to the owners. Once Disney purchased the cow for an undisclosed sum, she was moved to Disneyland for the company’s 60th-anniversary celebration and quickly became famous. Her new name: Mickey Moo. According to Mouseplanet.com, Mickey Moo was slated to live out her days at Big Thunder Ranch, which had a petting zoo.

Mickey Moo set off a new, minor California Gold Rush. Anybody who had a pet (or anything else) with Mickey Mouse markings thought that they could cash in. Disney, unfortunately, was very selective. Thousands of animals were offered to the company, but they only purchased two pigs and a Mickey-shaped potato.

Then, in 1990, another cow with Mickey markings was discovered in Minnesota. This coincidence was very fortunate for the cow, who had never been a good milk producer and had narrowly missed the slaughterhouse. Due to the popularity of Mickey Moo, this cow was purchased by Disney to live at Grandma Duck’s Petting Farm at Disney World, Florida. Minnie Moo was born.

Mickey and Minnie Moo were very popular attractions for years at their respective parks. Sadly, cows have limited life spans. The Disney Company was forced to euthanize Mickey Moo when she developed intestinal problems in 1993. She was 11 years old. Minnie Moo survived until the age of 15, dying in 2001.

Disney never officially announced the deaths. One Disney spokesman refused to talk about it, saying that it was “too sensitive” a subject. For some reason, the company never tried to replace either cow, although other Mickey-cows have surely been discovered.

Thus, a humble cow from Maine will always be remembered as one of the best known and most loved farm animals in American history.

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