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Beautiful Cows: Portraits of Champion Breeds    by Val Porter, Jeremy Hopley & Andrew Perris order for
Beautiful Cows
by Val Porter
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2010 (2010)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Beautiful Cows is a delightful gift book, one of a series that includes Beautiful Sheep and Beautiful Pigs. With portraits of champion breeds by Val Porter and photographs by Jeremy Hopley and Andrew Perris, the volume makes clear that there is much more bovine variety than most of us ever realized.

The Introduction reminds us that 'It is the eyes that draw you in: large, peaceful, gazing at nothing in particular. Cows are leisurely and amiable beasts'. Porter goes on to tell us that the book's purpose 'is to capture their bovine beauty, their character, and some of the many differences between the thousand or so breeds of cattle worldwide.' Further chapters address Cows in Civilization (their wild ancestors being aurochs); The Development of Breeds (mainly dairy or beef nowadays); Breeds Around the World (adaptable cows are found in every continent and environment); and Shows (including what judges look for).

Most of the volume presents two page displays of the selected breeds (in more or less chronological order). On the left is a background summary, Features, Use, Related Breeds, Bull and Cow Size, and Origin and Distribution, with a color photo on the right. Reportage offers candid shots behind the scenes at the world's leading cow shows. The back of the book includes a Glossary of bovine terminology, as well as references to Shows & Associations.

I've always liked the look of Highland cattle (featured on the front cover), but all the breeds are attractive in their own fashion (though I do find the Brahman's shape rather odd ). Overall, author and photographers do a fine job of showcasing Beautiful Cows, which would make a welcome gift for any bovine collector on your list.

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