'Fluffy Cows' Set Internet Hearts Aflutter

Rare is a reaction like "awwww" to the sight of a cow, except in the case of a breed of "fluffy cows" taking the Internet by storm.

The cows come straight from an Iowa farm where they are genetically bred to compete in cattle shows across the country. The breed is well-known in the livestock and agricultural communities but became a viral hit after photos of show cattle from Lautner Farms were posted on Reddit.

"We just redid our website and believe a photo was picked up through a search and then by somebody saying, 'Hey, look at these,' and the domino effect occurred," Lautner Farms spokeswoman Stephanie Steck said of how the cows from Adel, Iowa, became a viral sensation.

The cows, a cross between high-quality breeds, may be cute but their beauty, just like with humans, does not come easy.

"It's a lot of hard work to get the cows to be as beautiful as they appear in the pictures," Steck said. "Exhibitors have to break them and train them and feed them and blow-dry them and put sheen in their hair.

"It's similar to humans waking up and taking a shower and getting ready for the day," she said.

The task of maintaining the show cattle usually falls on students involved in local 4-H programs and also becomes a family affair, Steck said.

"It's a really neat deal because it takes a whole family to show cattle - to care for the animal - and then you get to go to show as a family and have one person present the cattle," she said. "It's a sport that teaches you how to respect life and the land."

Steck compared the process of showing the cattle bred on Lautner Farms and around the country to events like the famous Westminster Dog Show held annually in New York City. The competition is just as fierce and the grooming is just as precise.

"Just on show day there's a two-hour preparation time before hitting the ring," she said. "The cows get oils in their hair to make them shine and adhesive hair spray on their legs to keep their hair in place."