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May 10, 2008 / Bo Mackison

A Cow Named James

A Cow Named James

HeyJules posted a weathervane on her blog The Way I See It a few days ago and her photo reminded me of this weathervane which flies high atop one of the barns at the University of Wisconsin’s agricultural complex in downtown Madison. (Except her photo was of a horse vane, and quite a lot smaller.)

I’m not really sure why the name James is on the vane – perhaps it really is the name of the cow, or more likely the name of a farm family.

Addition to the post: I decided I had better check to see if I could find out why this cow was named James. And I did find out. Seems there was a company called the James Co. out of Fort Atkinson, WI that made large weather vanes in a variety of animal shapes around the 1900s. I found quite a few examples through antique dealers’ sites: several rooster vanes – these all seem to have been used for target practice and have bullet holes in them – and another cow vane. One dealer recently sold a James weathervane for $1300, so evidently they are collector’s items.

If you want to learn some pretty awesome information about weather vanes in general, including why 18th Century vanes required a king’s permission, and what a 9th Century papal decree decreed about vanes, this short article on these silhouettes in the sky will tell all.


  1. Srinivas / May 10 2008 8:53 am

    The pictures are really carrying the mind away with them.

  2. HeyJules / May 10 2008 9:15 am

    I love it!

  3. Robin / May 10 2008 4:48 pm

    I like weathervanes. This is a particularly nice one because it has a cow, and I like cows too. 🙂

  4. Bo / May 11 2008 5:39 pm

    Srinivas _ thanks for visiting

    Jules – yes, quite fun. cows are big in Wisconsin!

    Robin – they are certainly a piece of history, very interesting objects, actually.

  5. amelia / May 12 2008 3:03 pm

    Cool about the history. I love the silhouette of the cow.

  6. Gandalf / May 12 2008 4:15 pm

    Instead of James and the Giant Peach we have James and the metal cow. Cool.

    Nice background & history. I always enjoy the extra you bring to your post. It adds so much to the images you craft.


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