Photo of a salt lick sculpture in Baker City, Oregon

Weekly Gem #260, Hoof Arted

Published 8/21/21

Location: This hidden gem is located near the intersection of Main St. and Court Ave., in Baker City, OR (see the Clue Me! Map). 

Baker City has very nice sculptures all over town, most being examples of ‘realism.’ However, this one will probably strike you as an extraordinary example of impressionism. You'll be especially impressed when you discover the true identify of the artists - it was sculpted by cows.

Baker City has an annual art event called the Great Salt Lick Contest. A man named Whit Deschner came up with this idea as a way to raise money for Parkinson's research. He asked local merchants to help with this cause, and sponsor the contest. Of course this supportive town's response was unanimous... "A what?"

Here’s how the contest works. Ranchers place salt and mineral blocks on the range so their cattle can lick them to ingest their required salts and minerals. At the end of the summer, these blocks have been carved into a wide range of unique shapes by the rough tongues of ungulates. Fine-art-appreciating-ranchers enter their salt block "sculptures" into the contest where they are judged in categories like "Best Name," "Most Likely To Be Barbecued," "Best Poem Accompanied By A Block," and "People's Choice." If you would like to see some of these aesthetic sculptures, please visit the Salt Lick Image Gallery:

Among the creative names are "Picasso meets Mr. Blockhead," "Peekaboo," "Crater Lick" (which was apparently formed near Crater Lake), Honed on the Range, and of course, Hoof Arted.

After the winners are announced, the sculptures are auctioned off with the proceeds going to research at the Oregon Health & Science University's Parkinson's Center. Thousands of dollars have been raised by the contest. Thanks to all the avant-garde animals roaming the range near Baker City, we are that much closer to finding a cure for Parkinson's disease.

Finally, you can’t leave Baker City without some Whit Deschner quotes sticking with you. Such as:

“In Baker City, we don't pay our artists, we eat them.”

“I’ve found that horses are hardly artistic and are minimalists at best. Goats, sheep and deer favor realism and go in for detail …. Cows are impressionists.”


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


Hoof Arted


A bronze replica of a salt lick sculpture honoring the Great Salt Lick Contest

Why It's Interesting

Baker City has an annual salt lick sculpture contest. The salt licks are judged, the winners are given awards and then the sculptures are auctioned off with the proceeds going to Parkinson's Disease research.

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