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Measuring 5ft 4in (1.62m) long, the cow’s 18th century Irish origins may have accounted for some of the hysterical telephone bidding (14 lines were in operation for this piece), and undoubtedly it was a rare and unusual piece of primitive statuary. But more than anything it was the creature’s bucolic bovine charm which stimulated the whimsy of wealthy bidders, and it was an English private buyer who staved off Irish interest to secure the beast at £40,000, where only £5000-8000 had been expected.