8am: Collect the car from the rental company

930am: Come face to face with a giant galvanised steel cow.


Sounds like an interesting day, right? We made the trip over to Bolton Abbey for a special unveiling.

The magnificent galvanised steel sculpture of the Craven Heifer was unveiled yesterday, to celebrate the 160th Great Yorkshire Show this summer.

Show organisers the Yorkshire Agricultural Society commissioned renowned Whitby-based sculptor Emma Stothard to recreate the Craven Heifer who became a national phenomenon in the 1800s. People would pay to see the heifer who was put on show on her way to Smithfield Market, London, and remains the largest heifer ever shown in England and lived in the same era as the first Great Yorkshire Show.

Weighing more than half a tonne and standing at 6 ft tall, the GYSheifer sculpture was launched from the Craven Heifer’s birthplace on the Bolton Abbey Estate by the Duke of Devonshire and the Show Director Charles Mills.

The GYSheifer then travelled nearly 50 miles aboard a specially designed truck to Fulford, York where she was met by police motorcyclists and escorted into Imphal Barracks, adjacent to where the very first Great Yorkshire Show was held in the Barrack Yard of the 5th Dragoons in 1838.

There she was met by military, police, the Great Yorkshire Show team and local school children in front of the original Coat of Arms of the 5th Dragoon Guards, the only historic remains of the Barrack Yard.

Charles Mills, Show Director, said: “Today has been a momentous start to our 160th anniversary celebrations and marks the launch of tickets which go on sale today.

“The Craven Heifer was an iconic animal born and bred in the same era as the first Great Yorkshire Show and was the wonder of farmers across England. We want to take the GYSheifer on tour, just as the Craven Heifer did, so look out for her at a location near you or come and see her yourself at the Great Yorkshire Show where she will be put in prime position on the President’s Lawn.”

Today’s journey from Bolton Abbey to Imphal Barracks marked the launch of tickets for the show which takes place from Tuesday 10 to Thursday 12 July. The GYSheifer will now pop up at locations across Yorkshire to promote England’s biggest and best agricultural show before taking up position at the Great Yorkshire Showground ready for the event.

The Duke of Devonshire said: “It’s been a pleasure to be invited to join the celebrations to mark the 160th Yorkshire Show.  The historic of association of my family and the Bolton Abbey Estate to this local “celebrity”, the Craven Heifer, is well known.  I was honoured to be President of the Great Yorkshire Show back in 1999:  the show has a special place in our hearts and to bring these two Yorkshire icons together is tremendous.”

Colonel Andy Hadfield, Deputy Commander 4th Infantry Brigade said: “The relationship between the military and the Great Yorkshire Show goes right back to the very start. We are delighted to host this year’s launch here at Imphal Barracks. We look forward to our continued presence and links to the show, as The Yorkshire Regiment will once again host the Army Village and an award from the Yorkshire Agricultural Society will be presented to the Best Soldier in 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment.”

North Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Dave Jones said: “The Great Yorkshire Show is a key date in our county’s calendar, and a celebration of rural communities.  North Yorkshire Police are proud to support today’s unveiling of the GYSheifer sculpture, and we are looking forward to taking part in this year’s show in July.”

The GYSheifer is a one off, bespoke, life-size sculpture in steel which stands 6ft high, 4ft wide and 11ft long. She was created at sculptor Emma’s Whitby studio before being galvanised in Bradford and powder coated in Middlesbrough. She was then attached to a specially designed Great Yorkshire Show truck by HACS construction services in Ripley – ready for her journey.

The sculpture project has been months in the planning and involved research with experts at Bolton Abbey Estate and the Great Yorkshire’s Chief Cattle Steward Margaret Chapman, whose family have been part of the show for more than 100 years, to ensure the sculpture’s authenticity.

Emma Stothard, sculptor, said: “This has been one of my most ambitious projects to date, requiring hours of research with the help of Margaret Chapman – an expert in cattle. We’ve poured over many paintings and different documents charting the Craven Heifer’s size. We wanted the GYSheifer to be as lifelike as possible and it’s been exciting to bring the Craven Heifer back to life for everyone to get an idea of how big she really was.”

The Craven Heifer was born and bred in Bolton Abbey in the early 1800s. She was so large that a special door twice as wide as the norm had to be built to get her in and out of the cow shed. This doorway can still be seen on the Bolton Abbey Estate to this day. 

The Craven Heifer was a Shorthorn breed and this year will be the first time that the Great Yorkshire Show will host three national cattle breed shows; including the UK Beef Shorthorn Championships the British Simmental Society Show and the National Charolais Show.

The GYSheifer will now go on tour, appearing at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on Friday April 13 and travelling around the region until her final visit to Our Cow Molly Farm Shop in Sheffield on June 10.The public are encouraged to post their selfies with #GYSheifer on Twitter. The best picture from each location will win a family ticket (2 adults & 3 children) worth £75 on the door, £65 in advance.

All photos credited to The Great Yorkshire Show and Charlotte Graham.