New tuberculosis tests pave way for cow vaccination programs –

New tuberculosis tests pave way for cow vaccination programs
Tuberculosis can be transmitted from cattle to humans through respiratory particles. Credit: Vivek Kapur, Penn State

Skin tests that can distinguish between cattle that are infected with tuberculosis (TB) and those that have been vaccinated against the disease have been created by an international team of scientists. The traditional TB tuberculin skin test shows a positive result for cows that have the disease as well as those that have been vaccinated against the disease. By distinguishing between these two groups, the new tests will facilitate the implementation of vaccination programs that could considerably reduce the transmission of this infectious bacterial disease from cattle to cattle and humans.

“TB kills more people globally than any other infectious disease. In fact, three people die every minute from the disease,” said Vivek Kapur, professor of microbiology and infectious diseases and Huck Distinguished Chair in Global Health, Penn State. “What is less widely known is that cattle in many low- and middle-income countries are not only infected with and suffer horribly from tuberculosis, but also represent important reservoirs for transmission of the disease to humans through the consumption of unpasteurized milk or dairy products and co-habitation with infected animals.”

The team created its tests—which are described in the July 17 issue of Science Advances—by targeting specific proteins, previously identified by scientists from Denmark and the United Kingdom, that are missing from, or not secreted by, the widely used vaccine strain, called BCG. The ability to express these proteins were lost when the bacterium was adapted for use as a vaccine more than a hundred years ago. By indicating the presence or absence of reactivity to these “missing” proteins, the new tests can distinguish between an animal that is infected with the natural form of the disease and one that has been vaccinated.

“Our diagnostic reagent is a simple cocktail of synthetic peptides representing antigens that are present in the naturally occurring TB bacteria but not recognized by the immune system following BCG vaccination,” said Sreenidhi Srinivasan, graduate student in molecular, cellular and integrative biosciences at Penn State. “These antigens, when applied to the skin, cause an immune reaction in cows that have TB, whereas no reaction occurs in animals that have been vaccinated with BCG.”

New tuberculosis tests pave way for cow vaccination programs
Tuberculosis can be passed from cattle to humans through the consumption of unpasteurized milk or dairy products. Credit: Vivek Kapur, Penn State

The publication also highlights a promising alternative test format based on a recombinant fusion protein that is comparable in performance to the peptide cocktail. This protein has been developed for the United Kingdom government to be compatible with its potential cattle vaccination program, although the peptide-based test potentially obviates regulatory hurdles in countries that place greater restrictions on the use of products from genetically modified organisms.

The team assessed the usefulness of its test in cattle in the United Kingdom, Ethiopia and India.

“It worked beautifully, exceeding the performance of the traditional test by clearly differentiating vaccinated from infected cattle,” said Kapur.

Kapur noted that the BCG vaccine, which was developed in the early 1900s from the bacterium that causes disease in cattle and is the world’s most widely used vaccine in humans, has remained largely unused in cattle due to the potential to complicate diagnosis. In fact, the European Union, the United States and many other countries prohibit its use in cattle mainly for this reason.

New tuberculosis tests pave way for cow vaccination programs
Cattle are important reservoirs for tuberculosis. Credit: Vivek Kapur, Penn State

“While BCG rarely provides sterilizing immunity for either humans or cattle, it has been shown to be effective at preventing a substantial number of infections and protecting against the more severe forms of human TB,” he said. “However, the inability to tell whether a cow has the disease or has simply been vaccinated has prevented governments from implementing cow vaccination programs, leaving both animals and humans vulnerable to infection.”

Instead of vaccinating cattle, many countries have used a “test and slaughter” approach to control TB in these animals. The highly successful method effectively eliminated TB in the United States nearly 100 years ago and is still used in high-income countries around the world. Unfortunately, test-and-slaughter remains unfeasible in most low- and middle-income countries, where small and marginal cattle owners cannot afford to lose what often represents their primary source of income and nutrition. Additionally, in some countries, such as India, the slaughter of cattle is illegal due to the animal’s cultural and spiritual importance.

Treating TB-infected cows with antibiotics is not feasible either. While humans who contract TB often can be treated—as long as they do not contract a strain that is resistant to antibiotics—treating cows with antibiotics is expensive and can remove the animals from their service of providing milk, sometimes for years.

“The novel diagnostic test we have developed has the potential to replace the current standard test that has been in use for close to a century now,” said Srinivasan. “Apart from being economical and easy to manufacture and to standardize quality control, the new tests enable reliable differentiation between infected and vaccinated animals, which is one of the most important limitations of the current method. Access to such tests pave the way for implementation of vaccination as an intervention strategy in settings where test-and-cull strategies are not affordable for socioeconomic reasons.”

Explore further

Vaccine investigators use bacterium’s own protein against it

More information:
S. Srinivasan el al., “A defined antigen skin test for the diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis,” Science Advances (2019).

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Pennsylvania State University

New tuberculosis tests pave way for cow vaccination programs (2019, July 17)
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'Cow Cuddling' Is When You Pay to Spend Time in a Field with Calming Bovine – Travel+Leisure

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Savage tick-clone armies are sucking cows to death; experts fear for humans – Ars Technica

Scary arachnid is fat.
Enlarge / Engorged Haemaphysalis longicornis female tick.

Ravenous swarms of cloned ticks have killed a fifth cow in North Carolina by exsanguination—that is, by draining it of blood—the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warned this week.

Experts fear that the bloodthirsty throngs, which were first noticed in the United States in 2017, will continue their rampage, siphoning life out of animals and eventually transmitting diseases, potentially deadly ones, to humans.

Just last month, infectious disease researchers in New York reported the first case of the tick species biting a human in the US. The finding was “unsurprising” given the tick’s ferocious nature, according to Dr. Bobbi S. Pritt, director of the Clinical Parasitology Laboratory in Mayo Clinic. And it’s “extremely worrisome for several reasons,” she wrote in a commentary for the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The tick—the Asian longhorned tick, or Haemaphysalis longicornis—was first found terrorizing a sheep in New Jersey in 2017 and has established local populations in at least 10 states since it sneaked in. Its invasive sweep is due in large part to the fact that a single well-fed female can spawn up to 2,000 tick clones parthenogenetically—that is, without mating—in a matter of weeks. And unlike other ticks that tend to feast on a victim for no more than seven days, mobs of H. longicorni can latch on for up to 19 days.

Bloody blitzes

According to the new report out of North Carolina, the latest victim there was a young bull in Surry County at the border with Virginia. At the time of its death, the doomed beast had more than 1,000 ticks on him. The official cause of death was acute anemia, which is typically associated with severe hemorrhaging. The bull’s owner had lost four other cattle the same way since 2018.

The case echoes the first report of the tick, which stalked a lone sheep paddocked in an affluent neighborhood in New Jersey in August 2017. The animal was besieged by hundreds of ticks, which scrambled up the legs of health investigators when they walked in to survey the situation.

Since then, researchers at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories looked back through their tick samples and discovered a larval H. longicornis was isolated from a white-tailed deer in Tyler County, West Virginia, in 2010, backdating the first case known in the US. Still, researchers don’t know when the tick first arrived and were it came from.

H. longicorni originates—as its moniker suggests—in Asia, specifically, eastern China, Russia, Korea, and Japan. In recent decades, it has made its way into Australia, New Zealand, and several Pacific islands, as well as the US.

Infectious bites

In China and South Korea, the tick is known to spread SFTSV, short for the Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus. SFTSV is related to Heartland virus found in the US and has had reported mortality rates up to 30%.

H. longicorni is also known to transmit Rickettsia japonica, the cause of Japanese spotted fever, and Theileria orientalis, which is behind cattle theileriosis. It has also been found harboring relatives of US pathogens, including those that cause anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and the Powassan virus. ​

So far, health investigators haven’t found the ticks harboring any of these germs. But there’s a risk that at any point they could be introduced, Dr. Pritt notes. And, if they are, the diseases could easily spread like wildfire through the ravenous hordes of ticks.

The 66-year-old New York man who had the first recorded H. longicorni bite was healthy before and three months after the encounter. He found the tick on his right leg after working on his lawn and brought it to a Lyme Disease Diagnostic Center, suspecting he might be at risk of Lyme disease.

Though the biting tick was disease free, when investigators went back to the man’s lawn and a nearby park, they easily found more of the ticks. More concerning, the ticks were lurking in short, sunny grass, whereas other ticks in the area tend to stick to shady, wooded areas.

The authors note that, “the findings of this investigation suggest that public health messages may need to be changed, at least in certain geographic areas, to emphasize a wider range of potential tick habitats.”

H. longicorni populations are known to exist in Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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Move Over Therapy Dogs. Hello, Therapy Cows. – The New York Times

NAPLES, N.Y. — Even without a psychology degree, Bella’s natural talents made her an excellent therapist: She is calm and accommodating of a range of personalities, with the patience to listen to endless problems without so much as a judgmental moo.

From a lush, secluded pasture on the Mountain Horse Farm, a 33-acre bed-and-breakfast in the Finger Lakes region of New York, 3-year-old Bella and 2-year-old Bonnie are the highlander-angus crossbred cows that provide animal-based therapy.

Cow cuddling, as the practice is called, invites interaction with the farm animals via brushing, petting or heartfelt chats with the bovines. The experience is similar to equine therapy, with one game-changing difference: Horses tend to stand, but cows spontaneously lie down in the grass while chewing their cud, allowing humans to get even more up close and personal by joining on the ground and offering a warm embrace.

As more people are turning to a variety of animals — dogs, ducks, alligators — for their mental health, states are cracking down on how and when therapy animals can be used. But cows? You can’t take them with you.

ImageRudi Vullers, who runs the Mountain Horse Farm with his wife, Suzanne Vullers.
Rudi Vullers, who runs the Mountain Horse Farm with his wife, Suzanne Vullers.CreditShane Lavalette for The New York Times

“Can you see how quiet she gets?” said Suzanne Vullers, 51, an accountant turned equine therapist who co-owns the bed-and-breakfast with her husband, Rudi Vullers, also 51. “That’s what we’re looking for,” she said. “For the person and the cow.”

Hailing from the rural town of Reuver, in the Netherlands, the pair came across “koe knuffelen,” which means “cow hugging” in Dutch, on a return visit to their homeland two years ago. In parts of the Netherlands, cow cuddling is offered as part of half-day visits, and is part of an larger movement to connect people with country life. In the major urban center of Rotterdam, a newly opened floating dairy farm in the city’s oldest port invites city dwellers to visit the beasts.

About a decade earlier, in 2007, Mr. and Ms. Vullers — he a former supply chain manager, she a former accountant — traded their corporate lives to set up their farming shop in Naples, N.Y. (Population: 2,500. Claim to fame: a grape festival that takes place in the fall, with a competition for grape pie.) The idea of cow cuddling opened the barn gates.

In May of 2018, they purchased Bonnie and Bella, selecting them for their gentle personalities and lack of horns. “A lot of cows are not suited for it,” Mr. Vullers said. ”They can chase you out of the field.”

Hourlong cow cuddling sessions, priced at $75 per couple for the hour, are capped at two a day, with a maximum of four participants per session. “It’s not petting zoo,” said Mr. Vullers, though the animals are indeed pets in a sense — they aren’t production animals, and they’re not raised for beef or dairy. “These girls get to live a natural life,” said Ms. Vullers.


CreditShane Lavalette for The New York Times

CreditShane Lavalette for The New York Times

Rudi and Suzanne Vullers.CreditShane Lavalette for The New York Times

Each session is overseen by two human counterparts: an equine therapist, usually Ms. Vullers, who can read the animals’s moods to ensure a safe, positive interaction with their new human friends, and a second handler, who keeps a watchful eye on the other animals in the field.

Neither has a psychology degree, which is kind of the point: “Whatever they’re going through, they don’t have to talk about it,” said Ms. Vullers. “It’s not like therapy, right?”

Like other forms of therapy, the hope is for visitors to foster trust, empathy and connection with the cows and their own emotions. And as with any other kind of therapy, there are no guarantees of successful outcomes: “They’re not trained to lie down,” said Ms. Vullers.

On a recent Saturday, two pairs of people, an engaged couple from Silicon Valley and a mother-daughter duo from upstate New York, had traveled from opposite sides of the country to cuddle some cows.

“Drive five hours to hug a cow?” said Karen Hudson, 57, a construction company manager, who attended the afternoon session with her daughter, Jessica Ercoli, 27, a probation officer.

For Ms. Hudson, it was a sort of wish fulfillment, a throwback to the fond memories of visiting her grandmother’s farm. And perhaps a bit of fate, too. The email address she has used for over two decades includes the words “Missy,” which happens to be the name of miniature horse on the farm, and “moo.”

Leading the two excited but tentative women onto the field, Ms. Vullers offered guidance on a successful approach before demonstrating the methods herself. “O posture, not X posture,” she said. “Round the body” to appear less threatening. Walk up to the cow’s shoulders rather than its haunches.

“Clothing is important,” said Mr. Vullers. “They might slobber on you.” (Definite requirement: closed-toe shoes.)


CreditShane Lavalette for The New York Times

CreditShane Lavalette for The New York Times

For observers: “Stand sideways. It makes a world of difference to them,” said Ms. Vullers.

Advice for participants: “Respect them and their world and what they want to do and what they want to give you,” she added.

Number one advice for everyone: Remain calm. “The more relaxed you are, the better it will be for you and them,” she said, because horses and cows alike sense emotions and respond in kind — most of the time.

“Don’t rub your snot on me!” said Ms. Ercoli to Bella.

In the morning session, Colin Clover, 50, a recruiting manager at Facebook, stumbled upon this extracurricular activity the way that many people discover niche wellness trends: the internet. He immediately recalled that his fiancée, Alexandria Rivas, 31, a receptionist, artist and longtime equestrian enthusiast, had fond memories of visiting the dairy farm next to the college she attended.

Though he had once trained dolphins and sea lions, the idea of sidling up to a 900-pound heifer intimidated him somewhat. The nerves subsided when, he said, Ms. Vullers framed it in a way he understood. “Think of how you would interact with your dog,” he recalled Ms. Vullers saying.


CreditShane Lavalette for The New York Times

In their separate sessions, the pairs had a chance not just to meet the cows, but the entire coterie of characters. In the barn and field: Jaxon, the 1,800-pound stallion, swatted flies away; Stetson, a gelding, named for the hat; Cricket and Noa, mares rescued from abusive conditions; Suzie Q and Missy, miniature horses with distinct personalities. “Missy is always the first to say hi,” explained Ms. Vullers of her outgoing, plump-bellied friend.

For the final surprise of the day, the farmers invited the visitors to hand-feed the cows oat-based treats, which many participants described as their favorite activity. Even though, Ms. Hudson said, the cows’ tongues “were like sandpaper!”

Still, it was better than a different kind of surprise: “Sometimes cows drop things,” Ms. Vullers said.

Perhaps recognizing they were in polite company, the cows only dropped themselves. Lowering to the ground, they offered participants what they traveled across state and country to experience: a chance for a warm embrace.

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Plant-based dairy has a new competitor in flora-based foods – Quartz

Soon, one of Silicon Valley’s most talked about food tech companies will wade into grocery store dairy sections with a bold line of new foods. Perfect Day—which in 2014 year found a way to use yeast to make milk protein without ever needing a cow—announced today (July 11) that it will be scaling up its microbial technology with the help of some of the food industry’s biggest companies.

In the process, the Bay Area startup is creating a whole new category of food. You’ve heard of plant-based foods; next, you’ll be able to eat “flora-based” food.

That’s the term co-founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi settled on to describe products made using microorganisms—including the yeast they use to create casein, the main protein found in cow milk. Perfect Day claims its yeast-based milk proteins have all the functionality and taste of the milk proteins food companies have extracted from dairy for more than a century, but with none of the environmental downsides.

It takes a lot of energy to grow and transport the animal feed that dairy cows eat. And those cows produce a lot of methane that winds up in the Earth’s warming atmosphere. Perfect Day says its product will allow food manufacturers who sell ice cream, sour cream, cheeses, butter, milk, and other dairy products to use their protein instead of the kind they’ve traditionally gotten from milk.

To roll out the concept to the general public, the company is selling a limited-batch of 3,000 containers of flora-based ice cream on its website for $20 apiece (a cost that includes shipping in dry ice). By engaging and educating people about the new category of food, the company hopes to get ahead of any questions people might have about it.

One of those questions sticks out like a sore thumb, and that’s because it’s right on the label. The protein Perfect Day uses may not come from cow milk, but it’s still technically milk protein—and that’s what’s printed on the ingredients list, because that’s how the US Food and Drug Administration regulates product labeling. But for an everyday shopper that might be confusing.

“We need to start building value around this third category,” Gandhi says. To do that, he wants to tackle confusion head-on, explaining how their new flora-based milk protein is different from the kind that comes from cows. The company’s protein product is made by altering sections of the DNA sequence of food-grade yeast such that the microorganisms, once fed with certain nutrients, produce several key proteins found in milk, including casein and whey.

In the coming months, the startup says it will roll out announcements of partnerships with other food companies. Perfect Day isn’t looking to push food out under its own label so much as it wants to license its technology to other companies; those partners will incorporate it into their recipes and print the Perfect Day logo somewhere on their own product packaging. That will be more possible as the massive Archer Daniels Midland company works with Perfect Day to scale up the supply of yeast-based milk protein available to the market.

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A biotech startup is making cow-free ice cream. Would you eat it? – MIT Technology Review

A company called Perfect Day has announced that after five years and $60 million in venture backing, it’s created ice cream made of whey protein harvested from genetically modified yeast.

The scoop: The market for non-dairy ice cream has exploded over the past few years; in 2017, Nielsen expected that demand for dairy-free ice cream was expected to climb 50%, thanks to the growth of veganism and the increasing availability (and popularity) of non-dairy ingredients like oat, coconut, and even chickpea milk.

What makes Perfect Day allegedly different? Anyone who’s tasted non-dairy ice cream knows it sometimes seems sandy, chalky, or just … not like the real thing. That’s because one of the things that make ice cream so, well, creamy is the whey protein that is prevalent in cow’s milk. Cashew and coconut milks come close because they, like their bovine-derived counterparts, contain plenty of fat, which helps give frozen treats their silky texture. But they’re not the same. Perfect Day, however, engineered yeast to produce whey proteins, which means it possibly created the ultimate compromise between vegans, the lactose intolerant, and everybody else.

Is it genetically modified? Yes and no. On its website, Perfect Day says the yeast is genetically modified to turn sugars into whey and casein. But the company says only the “pure” whey makes it into the ice cream.

Does it hold up? Still unclear. One writer from The New Food Economy, a vegan, found the product creamy enough to stand by its dairy-free cousins. But the verdict is still out on how it compares in taste with ice cream made from old-fashioned cow’s milk.

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Mad Cow Disease: The Great British Beef Scandal review — disgraceful, and it may not be over yet – The Times

July 12 2019, 10:00pm, The Times


Mad Cow Disease: The Great British Beef Scandal

Why Can’t We Sleep?

Who could watch Mad Cow Disease: The Great British Beef Scandal without feeling a) deep disgust and b) rage? Rage at the rampant, reckless greed of the meat industry, rage at the arrogant assurances of the Conservative government that there was no risk to health as it prioritised beef farmers’ interests, rage at the grotesque hubris of feeding the remains of cows, sheep, pigs and chickens back to cattle, making cannibals of herbivore animals. What a perversion; what an utter disgrace. Kevin Maguire, the Daily Mirror journalist who broke the story in 1996, told this documentary, which should be compulsory viewing for all governments: “It was almost as if capitalism…

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Ancient DNA sheds light on early cattle – Cosmos

Cows are seemingly simple creatures. Their history is anything but.

An analysis of ancient genomes from domestic cattle and their wild relatives has uncovered the complex family tree of our milk- and steak-producing charges.

The study, published in the journal Science, reveals a history shaped by centuries-long drought and trysts with wild aurochs.

European cattle (Bos taurus) were domesticated around 10,500 years ago in a region that today spans parts of Turkey and the Middle East from wild aurochs (Bos primogenius), large beasts that were eventually snuffed out in the seventeenth century.

Genetic information from modern cattle indicate that a pool of just 80 female aurochs contributed to this initial domestication event. But analysis of modern genomes can only reveal so much about this early history.

One complicating factor is the introduction of genes from zebu (Bos indicus) – the characteristically humped cattle of South Asia that were domesticated around 8000 years ago from Indian aurochs (Bos nomadicus). This occurred further east in the Indus Valley, a region in modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India.

To get at some of the early events in cattle history, geneticist Dan Bradley, from Trinity College Dublin, and his colleagues painstakingly extracted DNA from as many old cattle bones as they could get their hands on.

A zebu-shaped weight from Tel Beth-Shemesh.

A Hay / Tel Beth-Shemesh Excavations Expedition

“We tried to do as complete a survey of the ancient Near East as we could,” says Bradley.

It was an ambitious project, given the area they were working in. With ancient DNA, “sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t,” says Bradley, “and in the ancient Near East, very often it’s not there”.

They ended up with data from the genomes of 67 cattle, including six aurochs. The animals spanned a period of history from 8000 years ago through to medieval times.

Early on, matings between domesticated cattle populations and local wild aurochs were common, according to the analysis.

The aurochs breeding with the domesticated cattle were most likely bulls, says Bradley.

“That makes sense,” he adds, because the bulls needn’t have been captured from the wild. Capturing and keeping a wild female auroch would have proven far more challenging.

Later on, around 4000 years ago, the genetic signature of zebu suddenly makes an appearance.

“There’s nothing, and then all of a sudden it’s all through the region,” says Bradley.

One possible explanation is a centuries-long drought at the time. The so-called 4.2-thousand-year abrupt climate event coincided with the collapse or decline of empires in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus Valley.


“Zebu are better adapted to an arid climate,” says Bradley.

The trait may have been deliberately introduced by ancient Near Eastern herders.

It’s also possible that herders simply needed to re-stock with zebu cattle after drought wiped out – or dramatically reduced – their taurine herds.

Once again, the input was from the male line. “You can change the genetics of a herd, in terms of years, almost overnight. All you have to do is choose a bull,” says Bradley.

“That they can time the Zebu introgression and correlate it with these periods of drought is extremely cool,” says geneticist Rute da Fonseca from the University of Copenhagen, who was not involved in the study.

Bradley hopes to get DNA from more fossils from the region, to reveal in finer detail the timing of the influx of zebu and the route that the zebu cattle took from the Indus valley across to the Middle East.

Meanwhile, deeper sequencing could identify genes behind the traits that separated early domestic cattle from wild aurochs.

“It would be really interesting to ask which are the important genes that are changing” says Bradley. “Was it called coat colour? Was it genes linked to lactation – for example, milking? Were there changes in the genetics of behaviour? These are really interesting questions.”

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#ReNewYogaChallenge Day 11: Cat and Cow – Houston Chronicle

Welcome to day 11 of the #ReNewYogaChallenge. Today, we’re doing something a little different, and offering up two poses that typically play off each other: Cat and Cow. And if your back needs a little love today, you’re going to enjoy these two, which are also great for core strength and posture.

As always, we have a video warmup here to help you get into the flow. But if you feel like you’re already ready to roll then feel free to skip the video, and head to the step-by-step instructions below. Heads up, though: You’ll probably really want a mat today, since your knees will be on the floor and that can be really uncomfortable without some sort of padding.

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Set yourself up in the center of your mat, and come onto your hands and knees, so you’re in a tabletop position, with your hips and elbows square. For tabletop, your back should be perfectly flat. This will be your neutral position for these two poses.

From here, we’ll go into Cow. Push your belly button down toward the mat as you press your tailbone up. At the same time, push your chest and heart out, away from your belly button and tilt your head back slightly. You should feel as though your back is forming a “U,” and you’ll feel a deep stretch in your back. (Wrist pain? Go down to your forearms!)

Hold this for a few breaths, and when you’re ready, move into Cat. Imagine you’re trying to imitate the look of a scaredy-cat’s rounded back. Start by pulling your core back into your belly and rounding your back. Allow your head to hang a bit here.

Cat and Cow serve as perfect twins of each other. And you can alternate from one to the other slowly by holding each position for a few breaths and really feeling the stretch, or quickly to warm up your body. Either way, when you’re ready, snap a picture and share it on social with the hashtag #ReNewYogaChallenge for the chance to see it online and in print.

See you tomorrow!

ReNew Houston: Get Houston’s newest source for healthy living, straight to your inbox. Sign up for the newsletter today.

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Holy cow: After twenty years on parade, Chicago's life-size, fiberglass cows are finally coming home – Roadtrippers Magazine

If you’ve ever visited the downtown of a major U.S. city, there’s a good chance you’ve seen one. You’ll spot them on street corners, in parks, even on the roofs of buildings. Some are sitting down, but most are standing upright in a walking position. All have horns, some also have hats. And despite looking relatively the same, each one is incredibly unique.

I’m talking about the famous cows from “Cows on Parade”—a 1999 Chicago-based art installation that featured over 300 life-size fiberglass cows. And this July, in an effort to honor the 20th anniversary of the trend-setting exhibition, the city of Chicago is calling the cows home.

One of the cows from the famous 1999 "Cows on Parade" installation
One of the cows from the famous 1999 “Cows on Parade” installation. | Photo: Amanda Bungartz

How now, brown cow?

In the summer of 1999—after being inspired by “CowParade,” a collection of fiberglass cows in Switzerland—Chicago businessman Peter Hanig, along with Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg, decided to organize an event where local Chicago artists could decorate cow statues and place them in various spots throughout the city. 

Hanig’s mission was simple: Spark joy and give back to the community. Local businesses paid $3,500 to sponsor a cow, $1,000 of which would go to an artist selected from a city-compiled pool. Once the artist was chosen and the work was completed, the cow randomly appeared in a public place, posing for just a few months before being auctioned off and all of its proceeds donated to charity.

“We have never estimated anything so poorly in our lives, and we have never been so pleased to be so wrong.”

And while the mission may have been simple, the impact was anything but. By midsummer, more than 330 cows had been loosed on Chicago sidewalks, their designs celebrating everything from the “L” train to Marilyn Monroe to literary elocution (one particularly brown cow outside of Columbia College had “HOW” painted on one side and “NOW” on the other). Word about these colorful mooers quickly spread, and more than 2 million people flocked to see the statues before they were taken down and auctioned off. And when auction day did arrive in late October, the cows—which were only expected to raise a maximum of $328,000—garnered nearly $3.5 million.

A cow depicting Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo
A cow depicting Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. | Photo: Amanda Bungartz
A cheesecake-loving cow named Mooving Eli
A cheesecake-loving cow named Mooving Eli. | Photo: Amanda Bungartz

Helyn Goldenberg, who was chairman of Sotheby’s Midwest at the time, told the Chicago Tribune: “We have never estimated anything so poorly in our lives, and we have never been so pleased to be so wrong.”

Cows come home

Since 1999, “Cows on Parade” has spread to 79 cities around the world. It is estimated that over 5,000 cows have been created and more than $30 million has been raised for various global charities. And thanks to the mandated auctions, these flamboyant cows have found homes all over the map, turning up in places like the oldest privately owned residence in New York City and the middle of a glass window in Buenos Aires. In fact, the most expensive cow was Wage Moo, a mosaic-style cow covered in thousands of Waterfold Crystals that sold for $146,000 at an auction in Dublin in 2003.

One of two cows found at the oldest privately owned residence in New York City
One of two cows found at the oldest privately owned residence in New York City. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

Unfortunately, Wage Moo won’t be in Chicago for the 20th anniversary event, but there will be plenty of other cows to spark some serious sidewalk joy. Being referred to as the “Cows Come Home” exhibit, 14 different cows (well, technically 14-and-a-half) will be scattered throughout Jane Byrne Park for a month-long display—and it seems more cows get added every day.

When I stopped by to check out “Cows Come Home,” I was utterly (or should I say udderly) blown away by each statue’s level of detail. Everything from the texture of the trees painted on one, to the tiny gold beads adorning the horns of another, the artistry is truly incredible. Each cow comes with its own sign, providing the statue name, the owner, and the original artist. When you’re there, be sure to check out both the water lily-clad cow named Moonet and Hanig’s very own red cow named End of Parade (hint: he’s the reason there are 14-and-a-half).

And if you’re wondering “why cows?”—you’re not alone. CowParade Holdings Corporation, the official owner of the CowParade brand, posted this statement on its website: “The cow represents different things to different people around the world but the common feeling is one of affection. There is something magical about the cow that transcends throughout the world. She simply makes everyone smile.”

If you go

“Cows Come Home” is on display until July 31 in Jane Byrne Park, right behind the Historic Water Tower. The park is open all day, seven days a week. The Historic Water Tower building is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

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