How to Make a Life-Size Papier-Mache Cow

by Rochelle Leggett, Demand Media

    One of the easiest and least expensive ways to make a large sculpture, such as a life-size cow, is with papier-mache. This material is quite versatile, and you can use it to make a variety of objects. The key to making this project easier is building a good form for your papier-mache cow. A good form looks recognizable as a cow when finished and will not require much papier-mache.

    Step 1

    Determine what size your cow will be. This will be based on the breed. For example, a Holstein cow is about 60 inches from the bottom of the feet to the top of the cow's back, about 60 inches from the front legs to the back legs, about 26 inches wide across the back, and about 102 inches long from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail. Make the frame slightly smaller than these measurements, as you will cover it with chicken wire and paper, which will make the cow larger.

    Step 2

    Form a skeleton for the cow from wood using fairly thin, lightweight pieces of wood fastened with nails and a hammer. For a standing cow, you need a rectangular shape for the body. Attach a length of wood to each corner on the bottom for legs. Combine two pieces of wood to form a general "L" shape and attach this to one of the short ends on the top of the box. This is the neck and head.

    Step 3

    Wrap cylinders of chicken wire around the body, each leg, the head and the neck to add depth to the form of the cow. Use pliers and wire to hold the cylinders closed, and attach the wire cylinders to the frame using staples. Attach pieces of cardboard rolled into cones for the horns. Use a cardboard tube, like an empty paper towel roll, to make a form for the tail.

    Step 4

    Cut newspaper into strips that are about two inches wide. Since this is a large project, you will need quite a bit of newspaper. The total surface area of a cow is over 50 square feet, and you will need at least two or three layers of paper, so you will want over 150 square feet of paper.

    Step 5

    Mix papier mache paste in a bowl by combining equal amounts of water and flour with some salt. The salt prevents mold growth. You can use any method to mix the paste, but using your hands to blend the flour and water is often the best method to remove lumps.

    Step 6

    Dip strips of newspaper into the paste, wipe away the excess and wrap the strips around the form. You can wad up pieces of paper to add bulk in appropriate areas, like the hooves or muscles. Add only a few layers at a time, and wait for the layers to dry before adding more layers.

    Step 7

    Sand the cow when you are finished and it is completely dry.

    Step 8

    Paint the cow. Acrylics are well-suited to papier mache. Most people think of cows as being white with black spots, like a Holstein cow. However, there are many breeds that come in many different colors, so choose colors suitable to the breed you want to imitate.

    Step 9

    Seal the paint with a clear spray-on acrylic sealer.

    Tips & Warnings

    • Though papier mache is a fairly lightweight material, this project will require a large amount of paper, and the finished product will be very heavy to move.

    About the Author

    Rochelle Leggett has bachelor's degrees in biopsychology and English and a Master of Library and Information Science. She has been writing for over 15 years and was first published in 2000. She has been employed in academic settings as a librarian and an archivist.

    Photo Credits

    • David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images