The Story of Old Ben: The Biggest Beef Ever
Beef producers are always looking for an efficient steer to feed. Perhaps none was better than a calf raised near Kokomo, Ind.
“Old Ben was born in 1902; he was born on the farm owned by John and Mike Murphy,” says Sherry Matlock, the manager of the Greater Kokomo Visitor’s Bureau.
125 LB. to 2 TONS
The offspring of a Hereford bull and Shorthorn cow, Ben’s rate of growth was astonishing. He weighed 125 lb. at birth and was gaining 100 lb. per month. He weighed
1 ton at 20 months of age and by 4 years old he was up to 2 tons. Ben’s owners realized they had a steer that was more valuable than a source for future steaks and hamburger.
“At 4, the farmers would take him to county fairs and festivals to show him off. He was shown annually at the Indiana State Fair; people were amazed,” Matlock says.
Ben became such a celebrity a local railroad ran a spur route directly to the farm to help with his travel circuit.
The steer became so well-known others were looking to cash in. “We do know some circus owners and sideshow owners were interested in buying him, but the owners refused the offers,” Matlock says.
The Murphy family enjoyed showing the steer, but a winter incident put an end to the travel. In 1910, Ben slipped on ice and broke his leg. Veterinary science was not what it is today. It was agreed Ben should be put down, but his owners had a taxidermist preserve Ben for future generations to see.
At the time of his death Ben was 16' from nose to tail, 6.5' tall at his shoulder and weighed close to 4,800 lb. You can still find countless photos of people posing with Ben (both alive and stuffed).
PRESERVED FOR TIME
Eventually Ben was acquired by the city of Kokomo. A pavilion was built in the city’s Highland Park where Ben resides today. Ben is truly a Big Ben — the largest steer on record.
“As far as we know that world record still remains,” Matlock says. “In the 1960s, Ripley used him in an exhibit of ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not.’”
Today the glass of the pavilion keeps Old Ben safe from the elements, but still allows people to get close to the old steer and be amazed by his gigantic size. He remains a unique and well-visited attraction in Kokomo as people want to get a glimpse at the world’s largest steer.
Drawing upon his travels and experiences as a farmer and rancher, radio broadcaster and speaker, Andrew McCrea shares stories on "U.S. Farm Report," a daily radio segment and weekly podcast.