Cows outnumber people in Rappahannock

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Rappahannock County has more cattle than people.

Virginia at the start of 2017 counted a population of 1.5 million beef and dairy cattle and calves, according to Elaine J. Lidholm, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Rappahannock County is home to 17,000 cattle, calves and beef cows, including these four-legged residents in the town of Washington. Photo by John McCaslin

Of that number, Rappahannock County counted 10,800 cattle and calves and 6,200 beef cows, according to the state figures. Rappahannock did not list any dairy cow production.

As for surrounding counties, Madison had a population of 27,000 cattle and calves, 12,100 beef cows, and 1,000 milk cows; while neighboring Culpeper County counted 24,500 cattle and calves, 11,800 beef cows, and 2,000 milk cows.

Over the mountains, Page County had a population of 21,500 cattle and calves, 9,200 beef cows, and only 200 milk cows; Warren County recorded 7,600 cattle and calves and 4,400 beef cows (no dairy cows).

Fauquier County is easily the Piedmont region’s largest cattle producer, counting 46,500 cattle and calves, 17,900 beef cows, and 3,500 milk cows.

In comparison to its 17,000 cows, Rappahannock County in 2010 had a human population of 7,381, albeit that number shrunk to 7,308 in 2015, according to the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia.

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John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at