Klossner shares home with 21,000 cows

Addition required to house collection

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BERNADOTTE, Minn. — Some dairy barns are home to 10,000 cows, but Ruth Klossner’s house is home to over 21,000.

Klossner was accepted into the Guinness World Records in summer 2015 when her cow collection was at 15,144 cows; however, it did not stop growing.

This year, Klossner built a 16- by 32-foot addition onto her house in Bernadotte to better showcase her collection of cow paraphernalia as it continues to grow.

Before construction began, Klossner had a dozen people help her herd the cows into boxes and pack them safely away into a fish house until the remodeling was complete. Another dozen helped her move the collection back inside, and the cows were finally able to roam around the new space March 3.

The “herd count” sits at 21,165 pieces. Klossner collects anything she finds and likes and is cow related. Among the items are clothing, pins, stuffed animals, key chains, water bottles, mugs, cups, books, puzzles, clocks, candy, ornaments, wall hangings and more.

“I never intended to make it a collection,” Klossner said.

Klossner’s collection has attracted visitors from about 30 states and 30 foreign countries. Klossner has also been featured in newspapers from Denmark and Poland, which she has laminated.

Klossner has many collections within her collection. One includes a group of around 500 Mary’s Moo Moos. These consist of cow knickknacks which take on the characteristics of humans. Each one is unique, hand-casted and hand-painted. 

Klossner also has a miniature version of collectibles based on CowParade. CowParade is an international exhibit consisting of life-size fiberglass cows that are placed in cities after being decorated by local artists.

When Klossner first moved to her house in 1979, her collection fit on the ledge in the stairwell. Her collection grew to take up the rest of the basement. It was not until 1992 that the first cows started to wander out of the basement.

Now, there is not a room that does not have a cow-themed item. The bathroom is even filled with cow collectables, as is the furnace room.

When it came to keeping track of how many pieces she had in her collection, Klossner gave each one a sticker and number and then put a description of the item into a spreadsheet. Her collection was at around 150 when she got her first computer and started putting the list together in the mid-1980s.

The first cow on the list is one she received in her 4-H days. She had other cow toys when she was a kid but had given them to nieces and nephews, and by the time they gave them back, the collection was in the thousands.

“The hunt is half of the fun, and sharing it with others is the other half,” Klossner said. “I love seeing the look on a retired dairy farmer’s face or when someone says they used to have something like (this piece) or when something reminds them of a story they then share.”

Klossner’s collection was started by a piece she found at a garage sale in the mid-1970s in Winthrop. The piece was made in the early 1900s in Germany. Klossner has many other international items as well, including Japan, Europe and Switzerland.

Klossner’s collection includes other unique items such as a framed auction bill from her family’s dairy auction in 1966 and gifts from the Nicollet High School sports teams. Klossner has photographed many games for the school, and the students sometimes gift her cow-related items.

“They gave me a football jersey with 00 for a number and included a small M in front of it,” Klossner said.

She has received posters, jerseys and shirts from the teams. Klossner also received a variety of items as gifts from family and friends and even from people she has never met.

The piece she considers the most valuable in her collection is a sterling silver cow-shaped cream pitcher from American actress Tippi Hedren, mother to Melanie Griffith, and star of Alfred Hitchcock’s, “The Birds.”

“Tippi got it as a wedding gift when she married Peter Griffith,” Klossner said. 

However, Klossner said she does not have a favorite piece. Well-wishers have left pieces on Klossner’s doorstep or mailed them to her. One piece was even left in the office of her church, just across the road.

Klossner said it is fun to see some of the things sent to her and hear from people she has never met.

“They may not know my name, but they know I’m the cow lady,” Klossner said.

Klossner welcomes guests by appointment and plans to hold an open house when landscaping and cement work are finished, possibly in July.

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