Clarabelle Cow was another of the many barnyard animals that appeared in the early Mickey Mouse shorts that ended up as a regular supporting character during the golden age of the Mickey cartoons. A cow that looked remarkably like Clarabelle Cow appeared in one of Walt’s “Alice Comedies” called “Alice on the Farm”. This could be her earliest appearance in a short. She had an enormous udder. She appeared in the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Plane Crazy” drawn almost entirely by Ub Iwerks who was also responsible for her birth. In this historic short, she was just a cow that became a passenger in the plane that Mickey was piloting, information on the short gave her the name of “Carolyn”, but that was the one-time reference to that name. Clarabelle has the amazing ability to change from cow to anthropomorphized being as necessary. Clarabelle has a young cousin named Bertie the Jinx, an Aunt, who is a socialite named Miss Bovina and a niece, Itsy-Betsy.
She appeared in three more shorts as a farm cow, until the short “The Shindig” in 1930, where she became an anthropomorphic cow, waiting in her stall while her life-long boyfriend, Horace Horsecollar came to pick her up on his motorcycle. In this short, she hears Horace approach and dons a dress to go to the shindig. It is in this short she has the name Clarabelle. The many farm animals that did appear in the Mickey shorts stemmed from Walt’s love of animals, which he developed while living on the family farm in Marceline, Missouri as a boy. As the Mickey Toons developed, so did the animals. Many stayed just farm animals, but many, like Clarabelle and Horace Horsecollar changed from animals to anthropomorphized beings when necessary.
Clarabelle appeared in 26 of the classic cartoons, playing parts such as dancing with Horace, playing an instrument in a band, ballet dancer etc. Her last film in the classics was “Symphony Hour” in 1942. As with most of the early characters, she made cameo appearances in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, and “The Prince and the Pauper” She also made her big comeback in the “House of Mouse” series on Toon Disney as the Club’s gossip columnist.
Although Clarabelle was Horace Horsecollar’s girlfriend, she was for a time, Goofy’s girlfriend during the 1960’s. Clarabelle also appeared in the Mickey Mouse comic strip and books as a regular character from the 50’s to the 70’s. Thankfully, the Disney Company does not forget it’s founding characters for long, because Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar can now be seen as regular participants in the “Family Fun Day Parade” held daily at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.