The 2,000 pound Limousin bulls trotting out of the arena at the National Western Stock Show on Tuesday towered over the miniature Zebu shuffling in.

Miniature, in this case, meaning 400 to 450 pounds.

Once in the ring, the miniature Zebu — a rare breed of cattle — showed off color patterns including salt and pepper, deep browns with a light patches around the face, and bright white. Humps were big and small, slanted, curved and straight. And horns jutted out at every angle and shape.

“They’re a great breed to raise as a hobby,” said Clancy Anderson, the livestock show coordinator for the stock show. “It’s more of a companion animal, rather than a serious farm animal.”

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post
Children brush a miniature zebu before showing during the National Western Stock Show on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020.

This is the third year that the stock show has exhibited miniature Zebu. In past years, breeders traveled from as far as Texas to present their animals in the miniature Zebu show at the National Western Stock Show. This year, six Colorado breeders were the only ones to make the trip.

William Hughes, a breeder who raises miniature Zebu at his ranch in Vineland, said many didn’t want to risk the potentially snowy, cold weather. Nevertheless, 35 Colorado-raised miniature Zebu strutted their stuff in the ring Tuesday, showing off their distinct features.

It’s no wonder that out-of-state breeders aren’t willing to bring their miniature Zebu to Colorado’s cold weather conditions: The creatures, which date back to around 3000 B.C., are accustomed to warm climate, as they were first bred in Asia. The judges look for the most eye-catching colors, hump shapes and horn sizes.

“Exoticness of the Zebu is a highly sought-after, favorable trait,” said Hughes, who brought seven of his own animals to the stock show this year. Miniature Zebu are judged on their hump placement, dewlaps, stature, head shape and the way that they move around the ring.

Breeders raise miniature Zebu for a range of purposes. They can be slaughtered for beef, kept as pets and used as mini oxen for pulling loads. Hughes said  miniature Zebu also produce about one gallon of A2 milk — a more digestible variety — per day.

Their size makes them great animals to raise on small farms.

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post
Don Magnuson sits in a chair as he holds one of his miniature zebus during the National Western Stock Show on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020.

A few youngsters were handling the miniature Zebu in the ring during the show, their size also making them ideal for children or people with handicaps to care for. Miniature Zebu have also been used as therapy animals in nursing homes, Hughes said.

The miniature Zebu show drew interest from all ages, with children, teens and adults watching from up in the stands and pressed up against the fence.

“It shows people another aspect of agriculture,” said Anderson. “It doesn’t just have to be this high-dollar farming experience.”