Image: Raul Hernandez
Jose Goitia  /  AP
Cuban rancher Raul Hernandez shows off what he says are the smallest cows in the world in San Juan Y Martinez, Cuba, on Aug. 11.
updated 9/13/2004 6:09:50 PM ET 2004-09-13T22:09:50

Rancher Raul Hernandez’s cows look just like other breed — only they are no larger than big dogs. They’re a perfect source of milk for Cuban families, he says.

Standing about 23 to 28 inches tall, the mini cows can be kept in a small area and they feed on simple grasses and weeds, Hernandez says.

“They are patio cows, easy to work,” the 74-year-old says, smiling under the broad hat he wears to keep off the tropical sun.

“They give up less meat, but they can deliver four or five liters (quarts) of top quality milk to a family,” he says.

After retiring from a state ranch where he worked for more than 30 years, Hernandez decided he wanted to keep working to remain busy and useful.

He acquired the Santa Isabel Farm in the tobacco-growing region of western Pinar del Rio province, about 125 miles west of Havana. Amid the rolling hills surrounded by towering palm trees, Hernandez worked with local agriculture laborers to plant food crops, then he decided to try breeding miniature cows.

Hernandez started out with a tiny bull, which neighbors had ridiculed because of its small size, and began breeding it with the littlest cows he could find. Five years and several generations later, he had a herd of cows that reach no higher than his waist.

He says his success has ranchers throughout the area pursuing breeding experiments of their own to come up with their own tiny cows. And Hernandez is training local teenagers to help care for the little animals.

“Now the neighbors are excited by the idea,” he says.

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