The Daily Churn

February 11, 2020 | by Lacy Cooke

Why street artists around the world are painting cows

A painted Holstein cow on a sign in the English countryside

Street art Holsteins with patches shaped like a world map are popping up across the globe.

Berlin, Bordeaux, Siberia: these are just a few spots where you might find a World Cow, but it all started in Vermont in 2016. Street artist DJ Barry told The Daily Churn he was experimenting with a cow design, since cows are “very much a symbol of our culture here.”

Then he started selling cow paintings for charity as part of a project he called Cows for a Cause. As Barry grew more comfortable with stenciling, he played around with the cow design and then, very innocently, he says, “changed the spots to be the map of the world.”

People were sufficiently enthusiastic about his cow paintings, Barry decided to rebrand Cows for a Cause into World Cow — with the message that we’re all spots on the same cow.

“World Cow’s brand is pay it forward, be kind,” Barry says. “We try in this political climate to be the balance to all that negativity and hatred in the world, and we’re trying to work together.”

“No matter where you’re from,” he adds, “you can be kind, you can love, you can help.”

Barry started publicly working on spreading his message of peace in 2019 and it’s already catching on like wildfire.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Vagelis Karathanasis (@lobotomy_streetwear) on

World Cow all over the map

Barry’s online connections with the global street art community has helped boost the project.

Vagelis Karathanasis — a contemporary street artist from Greece — painted the first World Cow outside of the United States on Dec. 8, 2019 in a public parking area in Athens, Greece. Known for his “Lobotomy” stencil campaign featuring Martyn Jacques and Lobotomy Streetwear Clothing, Karathanasis told The Daily Churn the concept of everyone being spots on the same cow reflects his own beliefs. He adds that his “ideal would be to share the original idea of the artist, which is equality of all nations.”

JPS, a street artist from the United Kingdom, heard that Barry was hoping other artists would spread his message of unity across the globe and volunteered to help out. He painted his World Cow in Germany on Jan. 14, 2020, and describes the project as “feel-good artwork, especially once you understand the message.”

“I think aside from it showing unity,” he says, “it also gives the viewer the chance to make their own interpretations.”

But as successful as the project has become, World Cow almost didn’t exist — since Barry originally planned to be a musician.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by World Cow (@worldcow) on

Healing arts

In his early twenties, the artist moved to Seattle to “try to be the next Kurt Cobain.”

That didn’t work out (he says he wasn’t very healthy then), so he took up painting instead, to help him heal. He found this form of artistic expression less stressful than performing on stage, and taught himself how to work with acrylics.

After he was invited in 2011 to show his art at a New York City gallery alongside established artists, he worried he had peaked as an artist — until he saw Banksy’s 2010 film Exit Through the Gift Shop. While Banksy cut out stencils, it occurred to Barry he could do that too; he started experimenting that same day.

Now, his art has reached a global audience. Barry explains that he is currently making a stencil for a school in the UK, where an art teacher plans to paint a large World Cow with students. And the city of Ontario is sponsoring World Cow art as well.

And then there’s the southern hemisphere.

Ngoni Tapiwa, an artist who works under the name myBruthazKeepa, is planning to bring World Cow to Botswana. Together with his business partner Mandisa Mabuthoe, he runs an arts organization called Gilbert’s House. Their tagline? Teach-Feed-Heal. He and other local artists are planning to paint World Cows in Maun.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by JPS (@jps_artist) on

Love and compassion

“I would like it to be an echo to any other place on the planet that has the cow,” he says. “I hope it inspires new, creative ways to spread love and human compassion.”

2020 will be a big year for World Cow — literally. Landmark Creations in Minnesota is creating a giant inflatable World Cow — Barry says it will be 30 feet wide — that will bring the message of unity to festivals such as the Vermont Dairy Festival and Jay Summer Fest.

Barry hopes to someday take the inflatable cow farther afield, although he’d need a sponsor. “If I had somebody that would give me five grand,” he says, “we would have that in Central Park in the fall.”

Until a sponsor comes along, he’s running a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the inflatable cow; any donations received after the goal is met will go to Land For Good.

Barry says World Cows are also in progress in Puerto Rico, South Africa, Peru and Namibia.

“We happen to be born all in the same 100 years or whatever…it just seemed like it was for a reason, to live this one life with these people in this time,” he says.

“Everybody I meet, I have this urge of wanting to connect with, wanting to make a moment…I’m going to spend this one opportunity I have to do as much for the rest of the world as I can.”

0 0 votes
Article Rating
1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂