Ross Butler

Ross Butler, from Norwich Township, Oxford County, Ontario excelled in producing agricultural art, now treasured worldwide. Through hard work and attention to detail, he honed his talent arising from a childhood hobby. Although he is recognized as Canada’s preeminent authority on farm animal portraits, his visions and observations were expressed in paintings, sculptures, photographs, speech and historical writings. Because of his great quest for accuracy, Mr. Butler developed a theory of proportions in the anatomy of farm livestock. He correlated the animal measurements for illustrating the Ideal (Standard) Type animals for which he achieved world recognition.

Mr. Butler initiated the proposal to illustrate breeds of domestic livestock for use in schools. He painted portraits of famed Holsteins and Jerseys, then created the first True Type Jersey cow and bull portraits. After his artwork was shown at a national show in Ohio a commission came to create Ideal Type portraits and models for the American Percheron Association.

By 1938, the Ontario government commissioned Ross to paint all domestic livestock breeds. The Quebec government commissioned him to paint the “Canadian” cow and horse. Mr. Butler was acclaimed World’s Leading Farm Animal Painter at the International Livestock Expo of the Californias. Then, the Montreal Star and Family Herald acquired rights to publish prints of all True Type portraits.

In 1947, Ross Butler was commissioned by the Ontario Dairy Producers to create sculptures of butter at the Canadian National Exhibition and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

“Famous Holsteins”, a large format picture of some of Canada’s best Holsteins was created for display at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in 1968. Later, updating of the Holstein True Type illustration was joined by the new Holstein True Type model and a painting of the Ideal Type Black Australorps Rooster.

A painting of two dozen farm animals entitled Royal Review was completed for showing at the Royal Winter Fair and in 1974 a large format picture of All Canadian Holsteins was completed. Updating of the Ideal Type Jersey cow portrait and the Holstein cow and bull True Type models was done later.

Mr. Butler was commissioned to do paintings and sculptures privately during his career. He created the widely acclaimed crest of Norwich Township, the international recognized Jersey Canada logo, the World Jersey Bureau logo for an international conference held in Canada, the “Black Horse,” and others.

Devotion to art did not stop Ross Butler from publishing a song in 1928, inventing Rainshoe rubber footwear in 1929, publishing a history of the breeds to accompany the animal portraits, artificially inseminating an Oxford County Jersey cow in 1942, breeding and showing 86 varieties of fancy poultry, buying and selling cattle and serving as president of the Oxford Jersey Club, The Oxford Museum and the Oxford Breeding Unit (which later became the Central Unit for the first independent All Breed AI unit for beef and dairy cattle).

Ross Butler was recognized by: a Holstein-Friesian Association of Canada Certificate of Recognition, a Ministry of Agriculture Bicentennial Certificate of Merit, a Butler Project of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario, a Royal Agricultural Winter Fair Salute for Contributions to Agriculture, an OMAF Centennial award, and an Honourary Membership in the Ontario Institute of Agrologists.

Ross Butler enjoyed speaking about his life’s work and showing people around his gallery, a converted barn on the farm where he lived on the outskirts of Woodstock. One of his last projects was a home video made to take his place in guiding interested persons through his agricultural art collection.

Ross Butler has earned the honour of being named to the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Nominated By:
  • David Butler