Knickers the cow has temporarily delighted what seems like everyone on the entire internet by … being a really big cow.
Okay, more accurately, the 2,800-pound Holstein-Friesian is a steer who makes his home at farmer Geoff Pearson’s cattle ranch in Western Australia. Australian media put Knickers on blast after the animal was saved from the slaughterhouse because he was deemed too big to be sold at auction. Potential buyers said he was too large to fit into their farm equipment; at 6 feet, 4 inches tall, he may well tie the current world record for biggest cow (but really steer) ever.
But there’s no need to be pedantic about whether the big cow is really a big cow. If you saw the viral photo of Knickers and said, “Wow, that’s an extremely big cow,” you’re basically right.
That fuckin cow, it’s too big guys. They accidentally made too big a cow. I’m stressed out just looking at it. Cow’s too big.
— Chase Mitchell (@ChaseMit) November 28, 2018
And I’m not going to spoil the fun by reminding you that Knickers is a steer. After all, steer jokes aren’t nearly as satisfying. “Holy steer?” No, it’s got to be “Holy cow,” or what is even the point of having a giant viral bovine in our midst?
HOLY COW: This enormous six-foot-tall steer has avoided the slaughterhouse by being too big.
— ABC News (@ABC) November 28, 2018
Here at Vox, we are strong advocates for trying to trace internet memes back to the wellspring of cultural interests and anxieties from which they usually spring. And there have already been a couple of attempts to connect Knickers to broader concerns, such as they are:
People: "If only there were some good news sometimes."
The internet: "Here's a really big cow."
People: "Close enough for now."
— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) November 27, 2018
“too fat to be killed” is a 2019 mood, sincere congrats to knickers the cow
— monica heisey (@monicaheisey) November 28, 2018
But regardless of whether Knickers is an apt vehicle for social commentary or just a funny animal who’s fun to joke about on the internet, one thing seems clear from a single glance at the animal: His down-home country charm and inviting persona — even though he’s a steer and thus unavailable for milking — are part of the shift in internet culture away from irony and toward wholesome memes.
Astute internet commentators have characterized that shift as being encapsulated in a trend in our collective internet proclivities away from cats (cynical, wry, highly conditional love) and toward dogs (wholesome, pure, highly unconditional love). In this context, perhaps we can view Knickers’s instant virality as a symbol of our longing to embrace a symbol of simpler, less complicated times. What’s a more immediate image to call to mind “cozy pastoral lives with small communities and no internet” than a cow?
Twitter today is very much like living in a medieval village. Our lives are shitty but we all get quite excited when we see a particularly big cow.
— RedScharlach (@redfacts) November 28, 2018
i identify deeply with the too-large cow
— Naomi Fry (@frynaomifry) November 28, 2018
Then again, it’s not as if Knickers is the first cow to get the meme treatment. After all, it’s only been a year since many people spent several hours glued to the saga of a runaway cow in Brooklyn. And it’s not like other, more cynical animals haven’t been clamoring for their moment in the online spotlight: After all, raccoons have been on the rise lately — quite literally— and it’d be difficult to find a more cynical edgelord in all of the animal kingdom.
At any rate, if you’re reading this and thinking that trying to link Knickers to the cultural zeitgeist is a bit of a stretch, then how, now, let’s avow: Sometimes, a cow is just a cow. (Or a steer.)
Good morning. Today is yours. Be the giant cow you want to see in the world.
— Amanda Deibert 🏳️🌈 (@amandadeibert) November 28, 2018