The Great Salt Lick

Sculptures entered in The Great Salt Lick Contest await judging and auction       

Deep West Radio Documentaries
12/22/12 NPRs Weekend Edition Saturday

“We don’t pay our artists, we eat them!” 
So declares Whit Deschner, creator of the
Great Salt Lick Contest.   Listen.


The artists this Deep West Radio Documentary creator Whit Deschner is referring to are animals…cows, elk, deer, goats and others…who create their art by licking salt blocks left for them in fields and pastures.

This is certainly one of the most unusual art contests and auctions in the nation, right in the middle of ranch country in eastern Oregon. For the past several years Whit's been distributing new salt blocks to ranchers who put them in fields where their livestock - and often, wildlife - sculpt away for weeks and months.


Artist at work: Angus cow licks a salt block in a field near Baker City, Oregon

Organizer Whit Deschner examines four licks left by a local rancher   The ranchers then collect the “finished” sculptures and bring them to Whit who organizes an auction each September at a local gallery. Proceeds from the auction are donated to Oregon Health & Science University and its efforts to find to a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Over the years more than $40,000 has been raised for the cause.
The Hemingway, a sculpted salt lick by cows and wildlife      Lick created by mule deer only, proven by artist photos behind scuplture

See more entries from all years, and get more information about the Great Salt Lick contest at:

Sign on Main Street in Baker City, Oregon announces the Great Salt Lick contest      Postcard for the 2012 Contest


This video is from the Western Folklife Center-produced 2010 Deep West Videos, available in the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop. All photos in this article taken by Taki Telonidis.