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Story Behind Viral ‘Giant’ Cow Is Actually Really Sad

“There’s no doubt that Knickers’ herd loves him to death.”

There’s no denying that this cow stands out from the herd.

Towering over his cow friends at 6 feet 4 inches tall, Knickers the Holstein is a lovable giant who stole the hearts of people all over the world this week after his story went viral.

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Knickers standing with his herd | Twitter/Central News 7 Queensland

But the truth behind his story is much more heartbreaking, says Susie Coston, national shelter director of Farm Sanctuary.

Knickers actually isn’t a giant — it’s just that people don’t usually get to see an adult, full-grown Holstein like him. They’re usually slaughtered right after their second birthdays, Coston said.

“People freak out when they see our adult Holsteins in person,” Coston said. “They’ve never been around cows so big. They are outstanding animals.”

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Knickers with his herd | Twitter/Stuart Taylor

If a Holstein does reach adulthood, like 7-year-old Knickers, then they’re simply too large to fit through the butchering equipment. That’s the reason Knickers has been spared by his owner, Geoff Pearson, a cattle farmer from Australia.

Pearson says the steer is the clear patriarch of his herd, often showing the smaller cows where they should walk and graze, and protecting them from danger.

In Coston’s experience, Holstein steers are some of the gentlest and sweetest animals — and often become herd leaders because of it. But Knickers’ role will likely have a devastating toll on him, Coston says.

“I’m sure Knickers is happy to be with other cows, but the sad part is those animals will just keep being sent away [to slaughter],” Coston said. “I can’t even put into words how heartbreaking that must be for him. These are herd animals; their herd is their family. ”

Since cows form such deep bonds with their herds, losing a member can be very upsetting for them. Coston is sure the same thing goes for Knickers — time and time again, year after year.

“The thought of losing your herd is so significant,” Coston said. “The whole situation is heartbreaking to me because he’s always going to be looking for his family.”

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Knickers huddling next to his herd | Facebook/Atem Gai de Dut

While thankfully Knickers’ life will be spared, Coston hopes his story can help educate people about how emotional and caring all cows are. Big or small, they love their hooved families all the same.

“I think when things like this go viral, it’s a good opportunity to explain to people how cows really behave,” Coston said. “There’s no doubt that Knickers’ herd loves him to death.”

To help Holsteins and other cows, you can make a donation to Farm Sanctuary.