Iowa State Fair Butter Cow

Butter Cow

The world-famous Butter Cow is located in the Agriculture Building. In 2006, Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines became the Fair's fifth butter sculptor.

Butter Cow History

In 1911 J.K. Daniels sculpted the Fair's first butter cow and was succeeded by  J.E. Wallace of Florida. In 1957 Earl Frank Dutt of Illinois took over the sculpting duties. Norma “Duffy” Lyon of Toledo, Iowa, began sculpting in 1960, becoming the fourth person and first woman to sculpt the Fair's butter beauties. Lyon passed away in June of 2011.

In 2006, after 15 years of apprenticing with Duffy, Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines became the Fair's fifth butter sculptor. In addition to her first Butter Cow, Pratt also crafted Superman of Superman Returns (Norwalk, Iowa, native Brandon Routh, who starred as the Man of Steel) and "Mr. State Fair" Bill Riley (in honor of his 60th Fair).

The Butter Cow starts with a wood, metal, wire and steel mesh frame and about 600 lbs. of low moisture, pure cream Iowa butter. Once inside the 40-degree cooler, layers of butter are applied until a life-size butter cow emerges - measuring about 5-1/2-ft high and 8-ft long.

While a real dairy cow weighs more than 1,000 pounds, a 600-lb. butter cow would butter 19,200 slices of toast and take an average person two lifetimes to consume. Much of the butter is recycled and reused for up to 10 years.

In addition to the Butter Cow, a companion sculpture also graces the Agriculture Building coolers. During the 2014 Fair, a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Iowa-based feature film, Field of Dreams, will be on display. Following are some that have been on display in previous years:

Companion Sculptures by Year
1996Grant Wood's famous "American Gothic" (honoring Iowa's Sesquicentennial)
1997Elvis Presley
1998An American eagle
1999Duffy's own version of Leonardo DaVinci's "The Last Supper"
2000Christian Peterson sculpting "The Gentle Doctor" statue (Petersen was Duffy's mentor and teacher.)
2001John Wayne
2002The Peanuts Gang
2003A Harley-Davidson motorcycle (in honor of the company's 100th anniversary)
2004A birthday cake in honor of the Fair's Sesquicentennial and an Iowa barn
2005Tiger Woods
2006"Mr. State Fair" Bill Riley (in honor of his 60th Fair) and Superman (Norwalk, Iowa, native Brandon Routh)
2007Harry Potter
2008Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and a tribute to four Iowans who changed the face of the world’s agriculture: Etta May Budd, George Washington Carver, Henry Wallace and Norman Borlaug
2009A tribute to the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon
2010Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham (in honor of its 50th anniversary)

2011

A replica of the 1911 butter cow sculptures, including a calf, young boy and chicken. A sculpture of a young girl with a butterfly was added as a tribute to Norma "Duffy" Lyon.

2012

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Disney film)

2013

A Tribute to the Historic Lincoln Highway (and President Lincoln)