Butter Cow

Duffy Lyon had a background of both art and diary cows, but she really got the job of carving the annual butter cow because the previous artist died and her uncle was on the State Fair Board. While previous artists kept the job for awhile and moved on, Lyon kept it for 46 years becoming a celebratory each year as the Iowa State Fair rolled around. Lyon even published a book on her experience. For awhile, she carved cows for multiple year. There are 6 major breeds of dairy cows and Lyon rotated between them, being sure to get the details right for that particular breed. She expanded doing everything from a scene from Harry Potter to The Last Supper in addition to the cow. In 2007 her long time apprentice took over. This past weekend Lyon past away. I’d already started this post. I hope you will enjoy her work.


Our family headed to the Iowa State Fair almost every year since the 1930s. I love going to see the butter cow in the Agriculture Building. However, I hated it once they started to leave it unfinished in the first days of the fair every year. It just takes out all the glamour once you see the chicken wire. Others disagree.

1974- Brown Swiss Butter Cow

1983- Butter Cow and Circus Pony

1993 – Butter Cow and Merry-Go-Round Horse
(Note: what she means by dog food is it was purchased by National Byproducts a rendering works that often takes things like old butter, old cooking oil, animals who died of old age and converts them into pet food.)

1996 – Butter Cow and American Gothic

1997 – Butter Cow and Elvis

1999- Brown Swiss Butter Cow and The Last Supper

2001 – Butter Cow and John Wayne

2004 – Jersey Butter Cow and a Barn and a 150th Celebration Cake

2005- Ayrshire Butter Cow and a Barn and Tiger Woods with a tiger

2006 – Butter Cow and Bill Reily and Superman

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2 Responses to “Butter Cow”

  1. Travel Times at the Iowa State Fair « Sarah’s Notebook Says:

    […] See my post on the Butter Cow here: https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/butter-cow […]

  2. Iowa State Fair 2012 « Sarah’s Notebook Says:

    […] long supported their annual butter cow with a vengeance. You can even follow the cow herself on Twitter. https://twitter.com/ISF_ButterCow Learn more about the cow and see video from past butter glory at this post. https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/butter-cow […]

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