Spoor Trophy

This picture shows the Spoor Trophy and the 1901 Judging Team from Iowa Agricultural College (IAC) that won the championship at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago that year, the second year of the Exposition.

The fabulous trophy was commissioned by the Union Stock Yard & Transit Company, who also sponsored the International Live Stock Exposition that was held annually the first week in December in Chicago, until 1974 when it was moved to Kentucky. The trophy —the bull in defiance stance— is a bronze by the noted French sculptor, Isadore Bonheur, a brother of the famous French livestock artist, Rosa Bonheur, best known for her masterpiece The Horse Fair, painted in 1953. It was named in honor of J. A. Spoor, the first president of the Chicago International Live Stock Exposition, and also the president of Union Stock Yard & Transit Co. The trophy was offered to the Agriculture College whose five students did the most efficient work in judging horses, cattle, hogs and sheep.

The management of the International Live Stock Exposition recognized the importance of interesting young men in the study and improvements of the various breeds of domesticated animals, and always made the Students' Stock Judging Contests a most important feature of the Exposition programme.

John A. Spoor was born in 1851 in Freehold NY. In 1886 he went to Chicago and became general manager of the Wagner Palace Car Co, later extending his interests to other railways and Chicago financial institutions. The Central Manufacturing District in Chicago was one of his important works. In financial circles he was known as "J. Pierpont Morgan" of the Middle West. Spoor served as President of the Exposition 1900-1908. In 1909, he became Chairman of the Board of Directors and served in that capacity for several years. He died in 1926.


The bronze bull was symbolic of the International Live Stock Exposition throughout its 76-year history in Chicago, from 1900-1975. Each November, visitors to the International Exposition were greeted by its bold likeness on the cover of the official catalog of entries.

During its Chicago tenure, the bull could be retired whenever an institution succeeded in winning it three different times. The first year of its existence, the University of Illinois team had top honors. However, the first bull was awarded to Iowa State College, who subsequently retired it in 1903 and three consecutive wins (1901, 1902, 1903). Those members in 1901 were H. O. Tellier, E. H. Hall, R. J. Kinzer, F. B. Kennick, and J. J. Hoover. Kinzer became an instructor, went to Kansas State University, and then on to be the American Hereford Breed Association Secretary. They repeated the feat in 1907, 1908 and 1909. After 100 years, the trophy is still proudly displayed on the Iowa State University campus in Kildee Hall.

A second bull was not cast until 1913. It was retired in 1928 by Oklahoma A&M College (1925, 1926, 1928). The third bull was retired following three consecutive victories by Kansas State College (1936, 1937, 1938). The fourth bronze bull was retired in 1955 by Iowa State College (1940, 1947, 1955). The fifth bull was retired by Texas A&M (1958, 1965, 1967). The current edition (sixth) is the last and will not be retired even though four universities have won it at least three times since 1967: Kansas State University, Purdue University, Oklahoma State University, and Iowa State University.

The proper title of the first bronze bull was "The Spoor Trophy." The second edition, which did not resemble the first because it depicted man as well as beast, was called "The Union Stock Yard and Transit Company Trophy." Subsequent editions were re-named "The Spoor Trophy" The third bull was identical to the first except for the tall marble pillar base which supported the early edition. The fourth, fifth, and sixth bulls closely resembled the first and third except for the fact that they were smaller and stood on a level surface rather than uphill. A life-size edition of the last three bulls stands at the entrance to the Palermo Show Grounds in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A likeness of the second bull was chosen as the official logo of the American Society of Animal Science. Only the first bull carries an inscription; it reads, "Bull In Defiant Stance."

The appraised value of this livestock art treasures is in the six-figure range. However, to the 2,500 teams and 15,000 contestants who for 89 years competed for the glory of winning it, the real value of the bronze bull is immeasurable.