FIDDLETOWN (CBS13) – A cattle crime has one Amador County rancher rattled after several of his rare miniature cows were stolen and others just left to die.

The only ranch of its kind in the United States is home to the mini cattle.

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“Isn’t she beautiful?” owner Rick Sanders said at his ranch in Fiddletown, near Placerville, as he points to one of his animals. “That’s a mature cow.”

These minis at their most mature stand about hip height.

“The miniatures are just unusual,” he said. “Here and New Zealand are the only place that have them.”

Sanders’ ranch holds the most miniature cattle in the country.

“They’re amazing. They look ponderous and slow, but when they want to move fast, they really can,” he said.

He says there are fewer than 100 of these bushy-eyed bovine in the U.S.

“They’re an ancient breed,” he said. “They’re the oldest registered breed of cattle.”

Rick had 45. Now he’s down to 35 after bad guys broke in overnight in the cover of darkness.

“They’re good animals. To end up in a lunch truck, that’s not what they’re made for,” he said.

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Rick believes the thieves rounded up 10 cattle into a pen. They took eight and left two behind and they were stuck in the pen with no food or water and they died of dehydration.

A sad way to go for an animal Rick adores.

“They’re made to be respected,” he said. “They’re as good a cattle as you can find.”

The cattle are known for their coarse coats and have been in his family since the late 1800s.

“The cows, they got a good life,” he said.

Rick breeds them and often sells them as exotic pets. Some go for as much as $4,000.

“We ship them to Virginia, Colorado, Idaho, Arizona,” he said.

They have a dominant demeanor to seemingly make up for such a small stature.

At least most survived the herd heist. But Rick won’t rest until the cows come home.

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Rick has told everyone to keep an eye out for these mini cows, and he’s also told the cattle association if anyone is trying to sell mini cows, they’re likely his.