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Here’s the beef: Chilli, England’s colossal cow

It's no bull: A cow in England stands 6-foot-6 and weighs more than a ton. But Chilli, the cud-chewing colossus, seemed un-moo-ved about his close-up on the TODAY show.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

It sounds like a cock-and-bull story about the Brobdingnagian bovine that began life as a foundling calf and grew up to become the king of the pasture.

But we wouldn’t steer you wrong. When we tell you the story of Chilli, the cud-chewing colossus, it would behoove you to listen.

Already the darling of the British media, Chilli was un-moo-ved by a live appearance Wednesday on TODAY. Visiting the show via satellite from his pasture at the Ferne Animal Sanctuary in Somerset, England, he worked placidly on a mouthful of fresh grass, allowing his manager, Jenny Wheadon, to respond to the probing questions asked by TODAY’s Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Al Roker and Ann Curry.

Lauer pulled no punches. Looking at the shot of the 6-foot-6-inch beast dwarfing the 5-foot-5 Wheadon, he demanded to know, “Is he on steer-oids?”

“Not at all,” laughed Wheadon, the sanctuary’s director. “He’s fed exactly the same as the other cattle — just fresh Somerset grass and good air.”

Wheadon estimated that Chilli, who’s 18 inches taller than a normal cow, would tip the scales at about 2,750 pounds if the Ferne Sanctuary had scales that big to tip. That’s close to 14,000 Big Macs, but there’s no fear that the celebrity steer will end his life as the daily special at a steak house.

FoundlingsThat should have been his destiny, but when he was just six days old, Chilli and his sister, Jubilee, were dropped off at the sanctuary, apparently by a farmer who couldn’t put enough milk on the table to feed them.

“Him and four other cows were abandoned at the top of our drive one morning,” Wheadon said. The sanctuary staff took in the situation and took the bullocks by the horns, rounding them up and giving them a home where they could live their lives pursuing their bovine passions —chewing semidigested wads of grass and pooping.

“They were all normal-sized,” Wheadon said, “and he just grew and continued to grow and grow.” She said his sister is big for a cow, but nowhere near the size of her celebrity sibling.

Chilli isn’t fat, just very big. The sanctuary is in the process of getting the Guinness Book of Records to formally measure him, but his handlers are confident he’ll dethrone The Colonel, a deceased 6-foot-5 giant who is the current British record-holder. Whether Chilli will dethrone the world champ, an Italian ox named Fiorino, who measures 6-foot-8 at the shoulder, is not as certain.

Chilli didn’t appear to be the type that would be upset if he doesn’t get the world record.

Placid nature
“He’s so docile,” Wheadon said, patting an acre or two of black-and-white hide. “Chilli by name, chilly by nature. He’s unfazed by everything.”

As a steer — a castrated bull — he has no prospects of starting a family and passing on his Friesian genes to a new generation of giant cattle. But Chilli’s future is secure.

“We’ve had cows here until about the age of 15, but they haven’t been the size that he is, so I don’t expect that he will perhaps live to that age, but he’ll be here until his retirement,” Wheadon said. “Hopefully, he’ll have a good few years to go yet.”

Lauer, Vieira, Roker and Curry milked the story for all it was worth. But, alas, Chilli had no hobbies or love interests or new albums or pub dust-ups or upcoming world tours to discuss, and so the interview was over almost as soon as it had begun.

“He’s beautiful,” said Wheadon as she patted her prize.

No one had a beef with that.