Following the herd: 150 painted cows settle on the streets of Manchester

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Manchester, which has never been slow to milk its tourist attractions, introduced 150 fibreglass cows to its streets yesterday.

Manchester, which has never been slow to milk its tourist attractions, introduced 150 fibreglass cows to its streets yesterday.

The bovine newcomers are the city's version of CowParade, the world's largest public art project which has seen 5,000 painted cows set up in cities from New York and Tokyo to London and Sydney and auctioned for charity over the past six years. The herd in London two years ago was well done but organisers now agree that for sheer ingenuity of design and municipal enthusiasm for the cause, no group of people can decorate a blank fibreglass cow quite like the Mancunians. "As an overall herd, it's the best we've had," said Charles Langhorne, managing director of CowParade Europe.

The city issued a "Cow Locator" map, launched two city-wide design-a-cow competitions and even adopted cow puns as part of the local vernacular.

Celebrity cows were among them, too. Vivienne Westwood's vivid orange Cowture - based on an original fabric design from a 1981 collection - grazes serenely in St Ann's Square with a Vivienne safety pin through her snout; Jarvis Cocker's Jersey Cow, covered in jerseys and bobble hats, has a shady spot in the Malmaison hotel foyer; while the architect Lord Foster's Urban Cow must settle for the chaotic Piccadilly railway concourse.

Each cow is sponsored by a business, with some paying for an association with a particular artist. The artists are paid £750 apiece and the Polish-made cows produced for each parade are auctioned off for charity, leaving organisers to make money from merchandising.

Anusca Ferrari, 28, a local Italian teacher, was examining Lord Foster's cow at lunchtime yesterday - the fourth she had seen. But she concluded, with some justification, that Manchester airport's hand-created mosaic MAGiCow, created with the help of local schoolchildren, was a far superior beast. "Sometimes modern art is too much about the idea and not enough about the art," she said.

Maddy Pritchard, 40, on a day trip from Stafford, found it all "bewildering".

"And he won't be interested if the cow hasn't got a football jersey on," she said, with a knowing nod towards her husband.

She was introduced to the Cow Locator map and directed to just the beast she needed: Daisy Beckham, complete with goatee beard and No 7 England jersey, who was quietly familiarising himself with a quiet corner of the Arndale shopping centre.

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