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January 12, 2024

The Story of Old Ben, the World’s Largest Steer

Old Ben, the world’s largest steer, weighed 125 pounds (56.7 kilograms) at birth in 1902 and between 4,585-4,720 pounds at his death in 1910. He stood 6.5 feet (2 meters) tall and 16.25 feet (5 meters) long from nose to the tip of his tail.

Born on a farm near Kokomo, Indiana, local legend states that Old Ben had to rest on his knees to nurse when he was less than a week old. He continued to gain weight as he grew, at a rate of nearly 100 pounds a month. Ben weighed one ton before he was two years old, and two tons at the age of four. He was the offspring of a registered Hereford bull and a regular Shorthorn cow and was never fed any supplements or special food. No one can explain his large size, but his record remains today.

Many circus owners and sideshow representatives tried to buy him, but his owners turned down all offers, preferring to show him themselves in a private tent at fairs all over Indiana and even at the State Fair for several years. Unfortunately, in February of 1910, Ben slipped on ice, broke his leg, and was then shot as a result.

But Old Ben’s fame did not end with his death. His hide was sent to a taxidermist in New York, where it was stuffed and mounted for posterity. Wheels were added to his platform so his owners could continue to display him until they sold their farm in 1919.

During World War II, Old Ben’s image was seen far and wide when postcards featuring a girl named Phyllis Hartzell standing in front of him were mailed to servicemen around the globe. Old Ben got another spike in popularity when he was featured as part of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! in 1968.

For a period of time, Old Ben went into semi-retirement, only emerging for special events and publicity shots. But in 1989 the world record holder again became a full-time public attraction when he was placed inside a glass-enclosed pavilion next to the world’s largest Sycamore Tree Stump in Kokomo’s Highland Park. Unfortunately, vandals struck in 2004 and stole Ben’s tail. Three normal-size steer tails had to be stitched together to create a new one.


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