Who is Bessie the Coburg Cow and what’s her story?

Bessie the Coburg Cow and her new companion holding down the fort on Savannah Hwy. | Photo by CHStoday

Picture this. The first hurricane of the season is rolling through the city. Everyone’s posting on Facebook about the Coburg Cow in West Ashley being lowered so “it’s getting real,” apparently. You’re confused, reasonably, and wondering why everyone is talking about some animal.

Enter: Bessie the Coburg CowCharleston’s very own historic landmark.

Located at 901 Savannah Hwy. in West Ashley, this long-standing display is often recognized as Charleston’s weather forecasterlowered when a storm is approaching — in addition to a unique feature of the city. A mascot, if you will.

Google Maps even has its own listing + address for the Coburg Cow, characterized as a landmark complete with Yelp reviews.

So, this seems odd, right? A cow on a raised platform that somehow informs the community about weather forecasts? Let’s dive into the humble beginnings of Bessie.

Bessie was put on her 10-foot high platform on Savannah Highway in 1959, at the entrance of the former Coburg Dairy — which began as a dairy farm but evolved to focus on the distribution of dairy throughout the South. While the supplier moved to North Charleston and became Borden Dairy years later, Bessie stayed put.

In the last 63 years, Charleston County has seen various weather-related events.

  • 521 total wind events — exceeding 58 miles per hour — between 1955 and 2020.
  • 392 total flood events from 1993 to 2020.
  • 159 hail events from 1955 to 2020.
  • 48 tornadoes between 1950 and 2020.

Anything that can withstand these weather conditions deserves a medal.

Bessie was removed from the platform and put away before Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, returning two years later. She was taken down again in 1991 after an accident, repaired, and reinstalled in 2000.

Check out this timeline of the cow’s complete history from The Post and Courier.

Throughout history, Bessie has never moved from the original location on Savannah Highway, though there have been a few new renditions, including a wood and fiberglass build of the cow.

She’s often decorated for holidays and special occasions, and is said to be single.

And in case you missed it, Bessie’s got a calf now. What does that mean exactly? Apparently, the calf represents the birth of a child in the Hanckel family, who operated the former Coburg Dairy.

Next time you’re in the area, stop by to check out Bessie and her calf + share some photos of the Coburg Cow through the years if you’ve got ‘em.