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Woman earns Guinness World Record for cow collection

Katie Seppelt Published on 20 November 2015
Ruth Klossner

People across the world collect an array of memorabilia: spoons, shot glasses, Beanie Babies, random knickknacks of sentimental value; the list goes on.

For many of us, our private collections lead us to a personal happiness not shared with others. This, however, is different for Ruth Klossner’s cow collection.

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What began as a passion for the dairy industry through her family’s farm has led to an impressive collection – a cow collection that has earned Klossner a well-deserved spot in Guinness World Records, surpassing the last record holder from Australia by nearly 13,000 cow items.

See Ruth’s Cow Collector’s Moo-seum in this slideshow.

Klossner grew up on a dairy farm outside of New Ulm, Minnesota. As a reward for all her extra work one summer, her parents awarded her a registered calf of her choice. Although this Holstein calf was not any better than the grades on their farm, her first calf was the mother of Ruth’s beloved show cow, Princess.

Along with many awards as a senior yearling and 2-year-old, Princess was named champion of the 4-H Registered Holstein Show at the Minnesota State Fair in 1966. A painting of Princess is one of Ruth’s favorites among her 16,193 pieces of cow memorabilia.

In the late 1960s, women were not generally employable in any area of agriculture, with the exception of lab work and journalism. As a dairy science student at the University of Minnesota for two years, Klossner wanted more than those two choices of career paths.

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Luckily, with her extended background in 4-H dairy, horse and entomology projects, Klossner became a county extension agent. Although the position was eliminated in 1983, her work in agriculture continues through journalism and community service.

Through this work and her cow moo-seum, Klossner continues to feel connected with her inner farmer even though she’s been off the farm since the age of 18.

Ruth’s Cow Collector’s Moo-seum started with the purchase of a white cow and calf figurine at an auction in the late 1970s. It was not until the mid-’80s that the collection grew beyond that figurine and the awards she collected during her 4-H days.

The Moo-seum now includes an array of cows from all over the world. The pieces are organized based on type, purpose or where the memorabilia came from.

For example, Klossner traveled the world, visiting countries like Switzerland and Japan. Those collections hold sentimental value and create a unique aspect to her moo-seum.

Every piece is documented on an Excel spreadsheet. A description, size, price, how the piece was acquired and date are listed. Although this elaborate list was sent to Guinness two years ago, it was not considered as enough proof for the world record to count.

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Early this past summer, two witnesses counted 15,144 cow items in her collection at the time and turned their records over to Guinness.

The count was verified and, on June 9, 2015, Klossner was awarded the much-deserved Guinness World Record. Although she has pride in holding the world record and displaying her dairy roots, Klossner sees an added advantage to her collection.

“Half the fun is the hunt, and the other half is sharing it with others,” Klossner stated when speaking about the discovery process for the cow memorabilia.

Many of the cow items have a unique story of how they arrived in the collection. Cow shoes, for instance, were found at a cow restaurant on a trip to Florida. The restaurant owner gifted Klossner the shoes as a unique piece to be added to the Moo-seum.

Another piece with a story to tell comes from movie star Tippi Hedren. While fulfilling grand marshal duties for the Lafayette Centennial parade in 2000, Tippi and her family stayed at Ruth’s home.

When she returned to the area a year ago, Tippi told Ruth she had a special piece for the collection. The next week, she mailed a sterling silver cow creamer, made back in the 1890s. This is one of the most extravagant and unique pieces of the Moo-seum.

When asked what is missing from her collection, Klossner stated, “You don’t know what you don’t have. My collection is unlike Precious Moments figurines, for example, where there’s a list of everything that’s been made.”

Some stories of Klossner’s cow collection are more humorous. Such as the story of one of her neighbors gifting a cow figurine from vacation. When the neighbor admitted it was ugly, Klossner’s response was “Yes, but it’s a cow!”

Another comical story comes from Klossner’s very first open house. Ruth noticed a toy manure spreader among the cow figurines in her farm scene when she was showing her guests around. Her father had added the toy after seeing the “need” for it with so many animals.

A few years later, a volunteer at another open house provided a tractor, proclaiming, “You need a tractor for your spreader.” The toy manure spreader and tractor remain between the cows as a laugh for Klossner and her visitors.

At a special open house celebration in September, more than 500 people visited Ruth’s Cow Collector’s Moo-seum. Over the years, more than 5,000 individuals have signed her guestbook.

Unique guests include three Princess Kays of the Milky Way, movie star Tippi Hedren and international guests from Sweden, the Netherlands and a vast array of other countries. Visitors have come from 29 states, 28 countries and three provinces of Canada. Her Moo-seum has been written about in Denmark, Mexico and Poland.

To see Ruth’s Cow Collector’s Moo-seum for yourself, make an appointment with Ruth at (507) 240-0048 or email her. This Minnesota cow moo-seum is one personal collection meant to be shared with visitors worldwide.  PD

Katie Seppelt is a freelance writer in Rice, Minnesota.

PHOTO: A collection of more than 16,000 cow items has earned Klossner a well-deserved spot in Guinness World Records. Photo by Katie Seppelt.

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