The Backstory Of The Ben & Jerry's Cow Mascot

The Ben & Jerry's cow mooed its way into consumers' hearts almost as quickly as the product it represents. As iconic ice cream purveyors, the company founders have been part of American lore since launching their first scoop shop in Vermont, dishing out delights from a former gas station and then packing pints in an old spool and bobbin mill, according to the company's website. Their cream was a hit almost from the beginning, but the Cowmobile launch in 1986 sealed the company's status as a quirky startup with big dreams. After all, who could resist a converted mobile home with painted cows traversing the country, handing out free scoops of ice cream to anyone brave enough to approach the walk-up window?

Plenty of people fell in line — until the Cowmobile burst into flames outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Calling the trip a "marketing drive" signaled an early mindset of taking products to the people, meeting them where they lived and played. It eventually included more zany vehicles such as the Flying Friesian bus that fostered fundraising for kids in need and the Topsy Turvy bus, which advocated for responsible government spending, per SFGate

But where did this cow come from? She has a story, one that documents American life over more than four decades.

Woody the cow

If you've ever wondered, the Ben & Jerry's cow is female, a Holstein, and her name is Woody. She wasn't the original bovine hawking ice cream for the brand's young entrepreneurs, but she took her post in 1983, just five years after the company's unconventional launch, per a Ben & Jerry's article honoring the "Most Interesting Cow in the World." Woody has earned her place as a company influencer and her image graces today's Cowmobile as it roams America's highways and byways.

Woody came to life at the hands of Woody Jackson, a Vermont artist well known for cow-themed illustrations. Ben & Jerry's named the new logo cow for the artist, reflecting a love for all-things-Vermont while recognizing the importance of the dairy industry in their burgeoning business. Known as the Cow Man in Vermont, Jackson had been painting bovines since the 1960s, while working on a dairy farm in the Champlain Valley, explains the Washington Post. His lifelong passion sprang from observing the creatures in a backdrop of red barns, rolling pastures, and the Adirondack mountains. 

In an interview with Days of Yore, Jackson revealed a wide range of artistic endeavors but confirmed that the Ben & Jerry's cows constitute a healthy slice of his income due to continuing royalties — ones that were once a source of contention, according to the artist. 

Do the world a flavor

Since her birth more than four decades ago, Woody has dressed up as the Village People, graced a baseball field, voted in an election, and taken a cow-pal scuba diving in search of ice cream treasure. But she also reflects company convictions that "we're all in this together," per a Ben & Jerry's video on YouTube. She boldly stands with her activist owners to "Do the World a Flavor," representing change through bold initiatives. Over the years, she's held signs bringing attention to GMO products, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and artificial growth hormones, and has supported the Farm Aid non-profit organization, notes the company. She's embraced bags of coffee to announce Ben & Jerry's Fair Trade commitment, and rowed ocean waves to highlight climate change. Costumed people posing as Ben and Jerry's cows also attended a "Truth or Clone-sequence" demonstration protesting meat and dairy cloning. 

On social issues, Woody donned a bridal veil in support of equal marriage rights, and she's gotten her hooves dirty supporting farmworker-led human rights issues as part of the Caring Dairy and Milk with Dignity programs. In 2018, the busy cow finally got a flavor named in her honor, the Moo-phoria.

Woody is a force of nature who's likely to be around as long as Ben & Jerry's ice creams line the world's freezer aisles and bins. As for the artist, Jackson states that "cows have been very, very good to me."