Meet the cow hoof trimmer and overnight TikTok sensation from Devon

Ant Thomas shakes hands with another man as he receives a trophy. He is smiling

Ant was very surprised by how well received his videos were - Credit: Ant Thomas

The social networking site TikTok has an unlikely star in Cornwall-based cow hoof trimmer Ant Thomas. Cornwall Life chatted with the man himself to talk about just why his videos are so popular

The Chinese video sharing social network has been a global success since becoming widely available in 2018. With 800 million users, videos range from political commentary to cute cats, dance performances to small business advertisements. Ant Thomas, born in Truro and now local cow hoof trimmer, only began using the platform as an experiment one day back in February. To his surprise, he returned a few hours later to more than 100,000 views on his first video clip. Since then, he has created a popular media presence and regularly shows viewers the ins and outs of his profession. 

This video in particular of Ant treating an injured hoof has been very popular, racking up over 15 million views in less than two months.

@keepingcowsmoovin

Bandaged more cows this week than I have done all month! ##fyp ##cows ##farm ##agriculture ##dairy

♬ original sound - Keepingcowsmoovin

So just what is cow hoof trimming? According to Ant, its a bit like getting a manicure for cows. Hoofs are carefully filed down to "make the cow as comfortable as possible and to stop them going lame”. Just like our nails, the animal cannot feel anything as they are trimmed, but they can become uncomfortable if left to grow for too long. 

Ant now works across the breadth of Cornwall, having steadily grown his business over the past few years. Although TikTok was probably never a planned part of his business, he's now incorporated his videos into work and regularly updates followers with both live and recorded videos.

When asked why he thinks the videos are so popular, given the niche subject, he said he believed it was because of people's inherent curiosity and how easy it is for the videos to be understood globally. 

“I think hoof trimming is very different. So a lot of people have never seen it before which helps. In most of my bigger videos... there's no talking and there’s no writing, so there’s no language barrier so it's not specific to anyone. At one point it was trending in Japan for a while and I’ve had people commenting from Iraq, Brazil, Mexico, and all over the place. I think because there’s no language in it, it made it a bit easier to trend and go viral.” 

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But it hasn't all been plain sailing for Ant and his social media stardom. On the day we spoke, he was just about to have a ban lifted that prevented from filming live videos on TikTok. This was due to a complaint the platform had received about his job being cruel to animals the week before. TikTok takes any allegations seriously but were also quick to reinstate Ant's account once they had checked out his videos and realised there was nothing inhumane about them. 

This hasn't deterred the man however, thanks to a host of messages from well wishers and fans. 

I’ve had people messaging me all week, commenting and moaning that I haven’t done a live video and I’ve had people say they get up early especially in the mornings to watch my lives. Which is super weird. I’ve had people from New Zealand who have watched four or five days in a row and you start to pick up who they are because they watch it before they go to bed and stuff. There’ll be people on there who have conversations with each other because they watch so regularly they kind of know each other.”

He thinks the negative comments he occasionally gets from people are proof of a wider problem in the agricultural industry as a whole. He hopes that watching his videos will help people around the world understand the more caring side of the profession. 

I think agriculture as a whole gets quite a hit. It's daily you get some fairly aggressive activist or anti-meat eating comments. It's quite eye opening really to see... especially when all we’re trying to do is help the animals. Its all positive but anything can be taken in the wrong way if you don’t know what you’re talking about. The biggest problem is people having no idea but commenting anyway. But it's definitely been an interesting few months that’s for sure.

Although he hasn't got any huge surprises on the horizon for his social media presence, Ant is considering branching out into longer YouTube videos at some point. For him, it's all about "trying to do things so that people can see the good in what we do rather than always seeing the bad of agriculture".

You can follow Ant on TikTok on @keepingcowsmoovin