MOC CHAU Vietnam (Reuters) - This year's winner of the Moc Chau beauty contest has an American father while her mother is of Dutch and Cuban heritage. She's also pregnant, which is fine with the judges since contestant 1386 is a four-year-old cow.
The Miss Milk Cow contest has been an October fixture since 2004 in the popular backpacker destination of Moc Chau some 200 km (120 miles) west of Hanoi, helping to promote dairy farming in Vietnam.
Owners armed with hairdryers and Vaseline jelly primp the contestants for the beauty pageant, adorning their heads with a bright red bow before the cows take center stage in front of hundreds of camera-toting spectators. Some farmers use baths, massages and music to soothe their animals.
Two contenders calved during the Oct. 15 event, earning their owners a special prize of 2 million dong ($100).
"The contest is part of our life. I love it," said Truong Thi Khanh, a former teacher who found his vocation as a dairy farmer and now owns 33 cows.
The contesting cows are judged on the basis of a solid torso, great legs, gait and obedience as they take two rounds of the circular arena in a two-hour finale. And, of course, the amount of milk they produce. The champion, a Holstein-Friesian known for its high yield, outshone 125 finalists from the region with its daily milk output of 42 kg (92 lb).
The 2014 winner had it in her genes, being the offspring of a former Miss Milk Cow title-holder. Contestant 1386, who weighed in at 830 kg, was crowned with a tiara and a cow-sized sash that emphasized her status as champion breeder.
Owner Bui Van Dinh, 61, took home a milking machine, a trophy and a cash prize of 55 million dong ($2,600). It was his first grand prize in nine attempts.
"The cows feed us, so we need to praise them," said Dinh, an engineer who turned to dairy farming two decades ago.
Writing by Ho Binh Minh and Tony Tharakan; Editing by Nick Macfie