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Toystory the Bull Fathered 500,000 Cows Before He Died

Toystory, a Wisconsin “dream bull,” had more than half a million offspring at last count and is the stuff of legend.

(Hillebrand Breuker/ Buiten-beeld/Minden Pictures/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Dairy breeders are mourning the death of a legendary bull: Toystory, a Wisconsin “dream bull,” had more than half a million offspring at last count and is the stuff of legend.

Toystory began his life as a sire after his owners noticed he packed on the pounds more quickly than other calves. The Wall Street Journal’s Mark Peters and Ilan Brat report on the bull's vaunted career:

Rare is the bull with the genes and testicular fortitude to sell a million units of semen, known among breeders as the millionaires club.

Over nearly a decade, Toystory shattered the record for sales of the slender straws that hold about 1/20th of a teaspoon and are shipped using liquid nitrogen to farmers around the world. A unit fetches anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred.

After joining the millionaires club, Toystory surpassed Sunny Boy, a Dutch bull who sold more than 1.7 million units in the 1990s and is memorialized with a life-size statue at the headquarters of his owner in Arnhem, Netherlands.

After Toystory's original owners sold him to bull semen broker Genex, his career really took off: the company claims that Toystory’s progeny can be found in 50 countries. By the end of his life, Toystory was thought to have exceeded 2.4 million units of semen. That’s over 600 gallons. 

Toystory’s tale showcases the development of the gigantic cattle semen market, driven by the search for the most genetically desirable bulls. From web-based matchmaking to bovine embryo transfers, cow breeding is a big (and increasingly sophisticated) business.

The bull's death sets the stage for a new international cow semen superstar—although the company that owned him wants to think he's one of a kind: “It’s very possible that no other bull will ever surpass his record,” a Genex exec told Peters and Brat.

Most cows won't even have a chance: it's rare for a bull to be chosen as a stud. But as the Daily Dot reports, life at pasture might not be too bad after all.

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