Watch out because the cows have come to the Czech Republic – Prague, to be exact.
Yes, the Cow Parade was in Prague!
The concept of a cow parade was first thought up in 1998 in Zurich, Switzerland by artistic director Walter Knapp. It is based on an idea which was realised for the first time in 1986 with lions as the symbol of Zurich. The lions were painted and then placed on display throughout the city.
The Zürich exhibit 1998 was not called a cow parade at that time. It was actually called “Land in Sicht” which roughly translates to “Countryside in view”.
In 1999, there was a cow parade in Chicago, organized by businessman Peter Hanig, along with Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg. The American company that explored this idea, CowHolding Parade, was founded in 1999; the Swiss company promptly sued but the case fizzled out without results. A bronze casting of one of the cows is on permanent display in Chicago in commemoration of the city’s initial exhibition.
News of the cow parade quickly spread and the success of it inspired many other cities to host similar projects with the primary goal of fundraising..
The following images are by photographer Páv Lučištník from the Prague parade in 2004, before many of the bovine beauties were vandalized.
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The cows are made of fiberglass and the sculptures are decorated by local artists, and distributed over the city centre, in public places such as train stations, important avenues, and parks. They often feature artwork and designs specific to local culture, as well as city life and other relevant themes.
After the exhibition in the city, which usually lasts many months, the statues are then auctioned off and the proceeds donated to charity.
Since 1998, Cow Parades have been organised in many cities, including New York, Washington, London, Dublin and Brussels.
The creation of the cow herd within CowParade Prague 2004 resulted from a meeting between the Netherlands Ambassador in Prague, Ida van Veldhuizen, and one of the co-organisers of CowParade Prague 2004, Bessel Kok.
The organisers of CowParade Prague 2004 donated 26 cows, and under the supervision of the 24 EU Ambassadors in Prague, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the acting Head of the Representation of the EU Commission, these cows were painted to represent each one of the 25 Member States as well as the Commission.
The artists were chosen by each Embassy, by the Ministry and by the Commission representation. Some artists were Czech, whilst others were artists from the Member States. A number of cows were painted by students of the international schools in Prague.
The original EU Cow Herd was to be exhibited in Kampa Park from July 1 to September 1, 2004. Instead, CowParade Prague 2004, grew to a city wide event. 204 life size cows would be grazing in the streets of Prague and in the city center until.
CowParade Prague 2004 caught the interest of 351 artists who submitted a total of 805 draft designs. The cows were sponsored by companies of all sizes from various fields and also by individuals.
We are proud that cows made it to the streets of Prague and we are sure that people in the city enjoyed their presence and found them amusing.
But then IT happened…
The poor cows were vandalized and violated.
PRESS RELEASE: PRAGUE 24. 6. 2004 – The international CowParade project has been marked by unprecedented vandalism.
What the hell?
Almost immediately, celebrities, singers, authors, ministers and even the president had harsh words for the cow attackers…
“It is proof, unfortunately, that there are stupid people in Prague as well.” – Pavel Dostál, Minister of Culture
“I regard it as a display of enormous ignorance. It’s not the actual damage done to the cows themselves, but it’s the lack of respect for the whole idea and mission of COWPARADE that annoys me most.” – Dara Rolins, singer and painter of one cow
“Maybe some people can’t bear to look at anything nice, unusual or ornamental. Maybe, they can’t even bear to look in the mirror. ” – Václav Havel, the former President of the Czech Republic and painter of one cow
“To destroy something that you don’t like is a waste of time. Why would you spend time destroying something you don’t appreciate? I wouldn’t expect somebody to break what they like. Other than that, I don’t have an opinion. Maybe, if the works of art were bulls, they would have enjoyed more respect.” – Aòa Geislerová, actress and a co-painter of one cow
“Frankly speaking, it doesn’t surprise me. I expected that some cows would be damaged, especially those placed in areas near night clubs. – ‘Hey look, a cow, I’m gonna take a ride! Let’s milk this one!’ And so on. The complete destruction of Romeo 23, the cow that was decorated in memory of the legendary Tank 23, was a special case. That must have been done by some Young Communist League member.” – Marek Vachut, actor and painter of one cow
“Damaging any kind of property is despicable. Breaking into our cow, the one with the built-in collection box to accept donations intended for sick children is not worthy of a mature society at the beginning of the third millennium. Sadly, compared to other major cities in which a CowParade has already taken place, Prague stands out because of the unprecedented spate of vandalism.” – Diana Dobálová, Press Spokeswoman of Eurotel Praha
“I think that generally, vandalism is a sign of mental immaturity. It has to do with a critical lack of creativity and invention, which is counterbalanced by a desire to destroy. Typically this is reinforced by ‘herd mentality’, when a crowd of people shows insensitivity and a desire to destroy. For such a crowd, every opportunity is good enough, including public displays like the cows.” – Jiří David, artist, painter of one cow
“I am not only concerned about vandalism against our cows, I am concerned about vandalism in general. My personal feeling is that most of vandalism in Prague can be attributed to foreign hooligans. My question is: Why do they come to Prague? And, when is the city going to start to take action against them?” – Serge Borenstein, co-owner of the CowParade Prague 2004
Sadly, so many of Prague’s cows were destroyed.
If you want to have a souvenir or a decorated bovine of your own, we found a whole bunch of them here.