Mooing Competitions and Reality TV

One of the more unusual hobbies, mooing. Making animal noises is strange enough but competitive mooing in the 80s laid the ground work for reality TV competitions.

I took to YouTube and watched countless competitions.

I read articles and found newspaper clippings from 30 years ago.

Professional Mooers seem to operate like a secret society. There is no sub-reddit, they don’t have any forums. They most likely live on the dark web.

Why mooing? Unlike other animals, mooing is the only animal noise that sounds the same across languages.

Also professional mooing led to one of the most famous, modern, reality TV shows.

Here’s what I learned.

Mooing competitions

Mooing, alternatively known as the up-down, or the Manhattan Once Over, is actually a real hobby with a large fanbase.

It’s competitive with paid competitions in the US. Let’s talk about two of them.


The World Series of Mooing is called Moo-la-palooza in Wisconsin. It shouldn’t come as a surprise since Wisconsin is known as “America’s Dairlyand”. As Cuba is a hotspot for baseball, Wisconsin is too for all things cow.

Oddly enough, I couldn’t find any info on Moo-la-palooza past 2011. Maybe PETA got to them?

Contestants can be any age between 5 and 75 to enter. Those over 75 obviously have an advantage as they primarily communicate with grunts and noises.

Judging a Mooing Competition

There is normally a panel of 4 expert mooing judges, usually including previous winners, who will evaluate your sound and score you accordingly along with a few other criteria.

Contestants get two changes to moo.

Here’s how they’re judged:

  • Style – this is all about your stage presence and energy output while on stage. This is your “it” factor. If you have the best moo in the world, but come on stage with no style whatsoever, you won’t win.
  • Realism – Meaning how lifelike your impression of a cow mooing is. This aspect is about the tones in your voice and is the most important thing to practice before going on stage. You’re dealing with the dairy state, they know cows.
  • Humour – You get extra points for humour while on stage. I think this is a crutch for a bad moo.
  • Originality – You can’t go on stage and mimic another contestant because you will not do well. You need to make the competition your own. Use your own personality while on stage and just do your best. Unless you are good at acting, the crowd and panellists will see straight through you.

The Mooing Prize

If you win, you generally get money and a few free gift items for doing so. You don’t quite get thousands for winning but you can get up to one thousand pounds.

In 2010, Austin Siok, a 10-year-old boy, has been mastering the art of mooing since he was a little kid. In a recent contest, he beat 80 participants to emerge as the winner. He won a thousand dollars, a cow-print jacket, a golden cowbell and one year’s worth of subs free from the sponsor, and the prestigious golden cowbell trophy.

Gilt Edge Farms competition

Then there is the Gilt Edge Farms competition that ran in the 80s.

More than 8,000 people entered the third annual competition at the fair last year.

“Surprisingly, they fall into two main groups people who are very familiar with the moo of a cow and the others who aren’t,” he said.

Judging that Inspired The Voice

Competitors stopped by the Gilt Edge booth sometime during the fair’s 10 1/2 days to take a number and moo into a tape recorder.

The moo-er may moo several times, but may not speak.

The recorded moos will then be screened to determine 20 to 25 finalists.

Then the finalists compete again on stage at the fairgrounds to determine the moo of moos, the judges will be seated behind panels so they can’t see who’s mooing. Three judges will assign points on a computer to avoid even the suggestion of moo rigging.

This is was the inspiration for the reality TV singing competition, the Voice.

“The reason for all this is that we’ve had some incredible moos from young boys, and I know if I was a judge I’d give them an edge,” Parsons explained.

The prize

In 1986, the prize as a year’s supply of milk or $600 as first prize.

In 1987, they almost tripped it to $1500 and a three-day, two-night trip to Las Vegas to the winner and three companions of his or her choosing.

Mooing Technique

He says he usually goes for the calf moo because it’s a bit easier.

“My bull isn’t as good,” he said while lifting a spoon full of ice cream he got at the dairy bar. “Adult cows have really deep moos.”

Some went for the go-to deep, long moo of an adult cow or bull.

Others, like Brad Jensen, decided on the higher pitched moo, typical of a cow looking to get another cow’s attention. (Or any attention, really.)

“I’m tryin’ to get ’em to come to me. I’ve got a baby calf in my back yard, and I moo to it. He thinks I’m his mama, probably,” he said.

Branson, 14, of Tecumseh said he had been practicing his moo for several weeks by working out with his grandmother’s cows.

Having kids, I’ve had to making a lot of animal noises. It seems that making animal noises is something everyone enjoy. According to this comment on YouTube, even the cows:

I wonder how good it feels to moo when you’re a cow it’s gotta feel good. Probably feels good to moo.