Traditionally, bulls are the sumo-wrestlers of the farmyard: big, heavy, immovable. At least that’s how the stereotype goes. But as long-time fans of Guinness World Records (GWR) will know, occasionally we love to flip convention on its head.
Enter Heikens Ark Jupiter (or "Humphrey" to his friends), one of the animal stars of the upcoming Guinness World Records 2020.
At just 67.6 cm (26.6 in) high at the withers (shoulder-blades), as confirmed by a vet on 27 April 2018, this Miniature Zebu is the new shortest bull. He is a full 4 cm (1.5 in) shy of the previous holder, Chegs HHAR Golden Boy from California, USA.
As their name suggests, Miniature Zebus are known for their diminutive proportions, averaging in the 91–96.5 cm (36–38 in) range. Indeed the breed has a cap on height, with any specimen standing over 106 cm (42 in) barred from registration. However, Humphrey is small even for his kind.
His stature also falls way short of his immediate family, with his father and mother having stood 90.1 cm (35.5 in) and 81.9 cm (32.25 in), respectively. Proving the hit-and-miss nature of cattle breeding, a sibling of Humphrey stands at a comparatively "lofty" 83.8 cm (33 in).
For some perspective, the world’s shortest cow would make even Humphrey look tall – relatively speaking. Manikyam, a Vechur (the smallest breed of cattle), was verified to be 61.1 cm (24 in) from hoof to withers in 2014. She lives in Kerala in southern India – the region to which Vechurs are native.
Humphrey, meanwhile, hails from the USA. He resides on Lime Creek Farm in Kalona, Iowa – home to the Gardner family: Joe, Michelle ("Shelly") and Arden.
When they bought Humphrey at auction in May 2017, their new addition was so small that they assumed they were buying a calf! It was only once they collected his documentation that they realized he was, in fact, two years old and therefore fully grown.
The Gardners aren't the only ones to have been deceived by Humphrey's age.
"Shock and awe are usually the biggest reactions that we get…" owner Shelly Gardner revealed. "It's hard for people to believe there are animals so small who are full-sized.
"Most people, when they think of a bull, think of a large animal and he is not that by any means!"
Despite his superlative size, he isn’t given any special treatment on the ranch. On a daily basis, he is out with the three Miniature Zebu cows in a pen that neighbours another with much-larger Angus Cross cattle.
"He seems to get along with all the other animals on the farm quite well," Shelly added. "Our dogs really seem to like him a lot."
A typical day for Humphrey involves "…hanging out, eating hay, grain or grass." He is a breeding bull so he has a job to do, but, as Shelly points out, "there’s no scheduling that!" Having said that, the family is hoping for the pitter-patter of tiny hooves at some point in 2019.
Could one of Humphrey’s calves one day claim his father’s record? "Potentially. Anything’s possible," Shelly said philosophically.
"With this breed, it's very hard to determine what their height will actually be."
There are lots of big plans afoot for this little bull: "We're hoping to start taking him to shows and breed expos, so that the Miniature Zebu breed can become more well known in the USA.
"We’re also looking to do some children's books [about] Humphrey and his adventures."
Talking of books, how does Shelly expect to feel when she sees her mini mooer in GWR 2020?
"To see Humphrey in the book will just be a surreal feeling. It’s been such a long time coming for a chance to earn something so infamous.
"Don't count the little guy out. Just because you are small doesn't mean you can't accomplish amazing things!"