DALLAS — Fair Park has its fair share of sculptures, some more conventional than others. Behind the Cotton Bowl stands something so strange, its name is strangely fitting: the Woofus.
“The Woofus was created in 1936 for the Texas Centennial Exposition, as part of the rebuilding of Fair Park,” says Art Deco historian Jim Parsons, co-author of Fair Park Deco. “It was the work of Lawrence Tenney Stevens, one of the sculptors who came down to work on the fairgrounds. He wanted to do a sculpture that was kind of a blend of all the major Texas livestock, so the Woofus has the head of a sheep, the body of a pig, the tail of a turkey, the wings of a duck, a horse’s neck, and chromium longhorns.”
And Stevens’ imagined story of how it came to have all of those features is, well…interesting.
“The Woofus’ mom was an Australian sheep who took a vacation in Texas,” says Parsons. “[She] met and enjoyed the company of a lot of Texas livestock, got pregnant, and when it was time for her to have the baby they asked who the father was and she said, ‘Everybody’s the father!’ And that’s how the Woofus was born.”
Oh, and it was both male and female, so there’s that, too.
Unfortunately for the Woofus, its life was mysteriously short-lived. It was accidentally damaged in 1941 and removed for repair, but it would never been seen in public again. There’s no record of where it went and no one seems to know what happened to it, but Parsons says it could not have simply disappeared.
“It was made of cast concrete so it wouldn’t have been easy to get rid of. And it was big; the whole thing is nine feet tall.”
While the Woofus was never found, its legend was not forgotten. In 2002 it was recreated from the original model as part of a Fair Park restoration project, and the second version, like the first, had a strange story of its own–but this one was real.
“The sculptor,” recounts Parons, “when he made his first cast of [Stevens’] models, he was getting ready to do the final Woofus and his studio burned to the ground. So the second Woofus was lost and what we have now is actually the third Woofus. I don’t know if there’s some kind of a curse there? Maybe.”
Perhaps the third time will be a charm for this mythical beast? Or perhaps you should enjoy it while you can–but maybe don’t get too close!
As Fair Park is a City of Dallas public park, the Woofus is viewable whenever the park is open. The Lawrence Tenney Stevens Trust also sells official miniature Woofus replicas, which can be purchased by contacting the trust’s director, John Faubion.