I started Fringe at season 2 and I noticed a cow in Walter Bishop's Lab.

Considering the hassle of keeping a cow in a lab, notably the odour that should be awful, is there any purpose of keeping it? Is there any back-story about it? Does it even have a name?

  • 6
    Why would you start with season 2?
    – Zoe
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 3:58
  • 8
    The real question is, why WOULDN'T you have a have a cow in a lab? Who doesn't like fresh milk, laced with unmetabolized excess hallucinogens, in their coffee?
    – erdiede
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 4:52
  • @zoe Keen recommended me to do so : I'd expect most people would like the show if they read wikipedia summaries for s1 then started at s2.
    – DavRob60
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 12:47
  • 2
    @DavRob60 Season 1 introduces too much backstory to skip. It's not part of the monster-of-the-week plot of each episode, and is unlikely to be in summaries - and has returned with a vengeance for Season 4. You'll be more confused than not for having skipped watching Season 1...
    – Izkata
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 13:41
  • 1
    @DavRob60 But if you still don't want to watch it, at least read the good summaries on Fringepedia: fringepedia.net/wiki/Season_1
    – Izkata
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 13:43

3 Answers 3


From http://fringepedia.net/wiki/Gene

Gene is the name given to the cow requested by Walter Bishop during the reopening of his lab at Harvard University. It is unknown who named the cow Gene, but Olivia is the first to use the name.

Peter Bishop explains that since cows are genetically very similar to humans, experiments on cows, simulate effects on humans; they are an ethical test subject when using a human guinea-pig might be dangerous.

  • 1
    Also, the Appearances section does list Gene as having been in Season 1 several times
    – Izkata
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 3:10
  • 1
    I thought Walter named the cow, but my memory on that point could be fuzzy. I believe there was one particular episode in Season 1 where she was introduced.
    – Iszi
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 4:17
  • 3
    Note that we've never seen Gene used for experiments, but we have seen her used for milk several times.
    – Tony Meyer
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 5:05
  • 9
    Dr. Walter Bishop: The only thing better than a cow is a human! Unless you need milk. Then you really need a cow. Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 10:27
  • @Iszi Yep, halfway through the very first episode (a two-parter, so around 40 minutes in), which is when Goran Jovic's quote is from. Olivia says the name about 7 minutes later when Francis asks about it.
    – Izkata
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 22:13

Walter asked for a cow in the pilot episode, "Pilot". It's unknown who named it Gene.

According to the transcript at Fringepedia (preserved by the Wayback Machine):


Harvard Lab - Setting Up

OLIVIA: Dr. Bishop, I've ordered a standard forensics' work package. Is there anything else you need?
WALTER: Optical coherence tomograph for flesh study. Two thousand pounds of silicon. At least five anonymous blood samples from volunteer donors, micro-organism detector. NASA grade, of course. There's still NASA, yes?
WALTER: Oh, she's still here. This tank was the best. And a two-Year-old bos taurus.
ASTRID: A what?
PETER: A cow. He wants a cow.
WALTER: Purebred, not a crossbred, this is important. Mature weight 850 pounds, total fat average 2.37.
OLIVIA: Is he joking?
PETER: Genetically, humans and cows are separated by only a couple lines of DNA. So, what's an ethical test subject?
OLIVIA: Where'd you learn that? MIT?
PETER: No actually, I picked that up reading books. You should try it sometime. It's fun.
OLIVIA: (to Astrid) Get him the cow.
WALTER: Fantastic, thank you. Only thing better than a cow is a human. Unless you need milk. Then you really need a cow.
(Activity including Walter examining laboratory slides; Olivia reviewing photos of Flight victims; an unidentified, and unrelated, class in session; and the arrival of the cow.)


Harvard Lab - John Scott Arrives

CHARLIE: Is that a cow?
OLIVIA: Yeah, that's Gene.


Peter thinks Walter wants the cow for a test subject in the pilot, but Walter never actually says that himself. Walter actually mentions right then that you need a cow for milk, and we see Walter frequently drinking milk from the cow too. The only experiment I remember Walter ever doing with the cow involved trying to get the cow to produce chocolate milk!

So I think, if we read between the lines, Walter probably just wanted a cow for fresh milk and was pulling a fast one on the FBI :)

  • I still find it unbelievable that he'd drink raw milk. He's a scientist, has he not heard of Pasteurisation? Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 11:51
  • @PointlessSpike We're talking about a guy who regularly takes all manner of recreational drugs in combination. I'm sure he wouldn't worry about unpasteurised milk. Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 7:32
  • @maguirenumber6- I think he only takes drugs that can be synthesized. Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 8:51

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