If you don’t know anything else about Milton Keynes, you’ve probably heard about The Concrete Cows. They are synonymous with the place. And maybe you shrugged in a puzzled way as I did when I first moved here (what’s the point of a concrete cow?) or maybe you curled a cynical lip… Concrete cows in a concrete jungle? Weird.
Well, it’s true. The cows are a bit bizarre looking, but they have a curious, slightly dopey charm. They are internationally famous and the single the most photographed thing in Milton Keynes. They’re visited daily by curious tourists and even commuters on the nearby West Coast train line look out for them as they whizz past.
For many years the cows were something of a national joke (the many Milton Keynes roundabouts are referred to as “concrete cowpats”), but they have become part of our culture and the locals are very fond of them. They crop up in local references, for example, the home stand for the MK Dons supporters is known as The Cowshed and their mascots are cows.
There are three black and white cows and three calves, which are approximately half life size. They date back to the early days of the Development Corporation when artists were invited here from all over the world to create art for the fledgling city of Milton Keynes.
In 1978 Canadian artist Liz Leyh made the cows from scrap and their skin was formed from fibre glass reinforced concrete donated by a local builder.
From the very first they have been media celebrities, attracting attention in all quarters – and it has resulted in a rather adventurous life. They have been cow-napped and held to ransom on occasion. They have been placed in somewhat compromising poses, had ‘pyjamas’ painted on them, been painted pink, made into “zebras”, festooned with BSE graffiti and the poor things even had to be rebuilt on one occasion after they were beheaded. In 2012, they were given a skeletal makeover by vandals in time for Halloween.
The cows were made at Stacey Hill Farm, now the site of the Milton Keynes Museum, and were first showcased at a parkland in Bancroft. Since then they have grazed beside the Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre, the National Hockey Stadium and INTU Milton Keynes.
There are actually two sets of concrete cows. The best known is at Bancroft Park. This is the replica second herd created by Bill Billings. Leyh’s originals are more delicate and not up to all these vigorous cow pranks, so they are now sedately displayed at the MK Museum.
The original cows proved so popular that they became the inspiration for an unusual fund raising project. During 2007, the 100 year anniversary of scouting, a local Milton Keynes scout group made small concrete cows to sell as a fund raising project. 100 mini concrete cows were created, complete with scout necker-scarves and individual number cards.
These included a special edition mini concrete cow which was created for the royal visit from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh when they visited to open the Stadium MK in November 2007. The royal concrete cow is cow number 101 and has the MK Dons logo painted on its back.
If you’d like a little bit of cow art all of your own, you can have it! The mini concrete cows were such a resounding success that CMK Ltd decided to continue the development of the Mini Concrete Cow brand and product range. Each cow is made with real concrete and hand painted and they all come with a unique serial number.
When you book accommodation in Milton Keynes you can hang out with Millie Moo and the rest of the Concrete Cows! The Butterfly Loft is only three miles away. To stay here contact us.