Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Charolais Specials, Part I

I won’t go into the gory details, but I was sick yesterday - the kind of sick that requires one to be within sprinting distance of a bathroom. I’m somewhat better today; I can swallow, stand upright, and talk in moderately coherent sentences. I did have to spackle on a couple pounds' worth of makeup to make myself look a little less cadaverous for my driver’s license photo today, though. (I was so pale, I was verging on transparent.)

Anyway, as promised, here’s a picture of my SR Shorthorn Bull:

The first thing you’ll notice is that his eyes aren’t painted - he’s a cull! A little unusual, especially for an SR as rare as he is, but that’s not his most interesting feature. We’ll get to that in a minute.

The early SR Charolais Bulls - both the Shorthorn, and the Simmental - are mostly a mystery. We don’t know the exact circumstances of how either one came to be, how many were made, or even exactly when they were made. They started showing up sometime in the early to mid-1980s, mostly on everyone’s want lists.

We know that at least 288 of the SR Simmental were sold through the National Simmental Association, ca. 1983. The Simmental does seem to be somewhat more common than the Shorthorn, but it’s hard to tell because, like a lot of early SRs, they weren’t sold directly to the hobbyist market. There could be hundreds more of them, sitting on the shelves or in the closets of nonhobbyist cattle fanciers, unaware of either the hobby or their rarity.

It’s unclear if the Simmental was specifically designed for the NSA in the first place. Why do I say that? Let’s turn to this little document I found on eBay a number of years ago:

Weathervanes? With Breyers on them? What does that have to do with the SR Bulls? Take a look at the inside spread and see:

Let's look a little closer at the little box of text in the corner:

The brochure is copyright 1976; the photograph looks very similar to the photos used in the 1976 Breyer Dealer’s Catalog and Collector’s Manual - so much so, that I believe they’re from the same photo shoot. Does that mean that the Bulls were originally designed as SRs for Robbins Metal Craft, as early as 1976?

Maybe. The dates for the brochure seems right: the colors and typography of this brochure are so very, very 1970s. But it’s possible that the brochure could have been reprinted for years, and the "additional ornaments" text in the corner could have been added in a later printing. Is there any actual evidence of the SR Bulls being used - or at least sold - as weathervane ornaments?

You’ve already seen it. Here’s an aerial shot of my Shorthorn:

Yep, he was drilled for mounting. You can see that there are traces of airbrushing inside the drill holes, which means that he was drilled prior to being painted.

He’s not just a cull, he’s a weathervane cull. Advertised in a brochure illustrated with photos straight from Breyer.

Intrigued? More on this story, later in the week.


BluelineGoddess said...

I worked at a pharmaceutical company that owned a huge tract of land with an old farmhouse (apparently the farmhouse was one of the stops for the Pony Express). They had a QH Gelding Weathervane, and I always wanted to go rescue him. I had no idea he was a mass-produced piece, I had always assumed the last resident of the farmhouse had made it.

Latter-Day Flapper said...

I love the livestock animals. I can't afford the older SR ones, unfortunately, but I always admire them.

Bit o' trivia: There is a Yorkshire/Hampshire crossbred called a "blue butt" that is a dead ringer for Jasper. I had a hard time finding a pig breed that matched him in coloring, body type, and floppy versus erect ears, and somebody finally figured out that "blue butt" suited him to a T. So, if anyone needs a breed for their Jasper, there it is.

ANDREA said...

I believe the original (live) Jasper was a Hampshire crossbred.

My Shorthorn wasn't too expensive, but the hole did prolly scare off most of the serious bidders. My Simmental, on the other hand ... well, I'll get to that tomorrow.

lehkeary said...

A neighbor of my parents have a palomino FAS weathervane - I too, assumed it was a homemade thing!