•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Now Brown Swiss? No.2

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: It takes two to tango with a cow. I guess it's to be expected. Yesterday I spoke of the problems I had getting the cow to turn her head the right way. This shot was taken this morning while my friend Lazlo stroked Bessie's nose and diverted her attention, all the while snapping pictures with his right hand. While he stroked I snuck in from the side. Even so, I feel lucky to have caught this, and I threw away fifty to get it.

Yeah, I know, it's a slow-moving cow, and people have been known to get some pretty good shots of tigers leaping at a lens. These Brown Swiss really are sweethearts. Unlike dogs, they're much too polite to ask to be petted, but once you start, they'll put down their heads to show you where. I wish their noses didn't constantly drip.

To give due credit, Brown Swiss are ideal models if you can overlook nose goo and sometimes a pancaked flank. Black Angus may make great steak, and they can look nice dotting a field, but dark fur obscures the features of their faces and the otherwise sinuous contours of their bodies. Dappled cows such as Holsteins and Guernseys and unlikely breeds like Belted Galloways compound these problems by camouflaging their bovine curves. Brown Swiss and Jersey cows have smooth, even, light, tan coats which darken and lighten softly across their flanks. Sunlight can reveal magenta or orange overtones. When the angle to the light is right, all the curves of the torso are visible and sometimes you can see the ripples of the rib cage. Brown Swiss are larger than Jerseys, awesomely so. Add large, furry ears, a docile nature, and high butter fat content, and I'll introduce you to a model any photographer might fall in love with.