Saturday, August 15, 2009

Polled and Horned "white urus" in the British Isles -Important FACTS about the Chillingham herd of White Cattle & the Hamilton (Cadzow) Herd

The following are excerpts of an 1836 book from the highly respected and much published Sir William Jardine. These excerpts clearly establish the polled Park cattle (now known as British White) as not only a treasured heritage breed in the early 1800's, but also as a distinctly different body type over those of the horned Chillingham herd. The horned Chillingham cattle are purported to have been kept in isolation and the bloodlines pure through the 20th century (the works of other early 19th century authors have proven this to be a false statement, and Sir William also notes that at one point prior to 1836 there was only ONE horned Park animal left in the Chillingham herd.) "The stock at Chillingham was once reduced to a cow in calf. The produce fortunately proved a bull." Which Chillingham obviously used for cross-breeding in order to re-populate their herd, and it's a solid assumption that stock from the Hamilton/Cadzow herd were likely used as well in building their herd anew.


"The (once wild white cattle)most remarkable now are the parks of Chillingham in Northumberland, the property of Lord Tankerville, and that of Hamilton Palace in Lanarkshire, where the drawing for the accompanying illustration was made. This very ancient and peculiar breed of cattle has been long kept up with great care by the noble family of Hamilton in a chase in the vicinity of their splendid seat at Hamilton, in the Middle Ward of the county of Lanark. They are generally believed to be the remains of the ancient breed of white cattle which were found on the island when the Romans first visited it, and which they (the Romans) represent as then running wild in the woods."

*We are indebted to Robert Brown Esq Chamberlain. . . to His Grace the Duke of Hamilton for having procured for us the following interesting account:

". . .The chase in which they browse was formerly a park or forest attached to the Royal castle of Cadzow where the ancient British kings of Strathclyde and subsequently kings of Scotland used frequently to reside and to hold their courts. The oaks with which the park is studded over are evidently very ancient and many of them are of enormous size. Some of these are English oaks and are supposed to have been planted by King David, first Earl of Huntingdon about the year 1140. The chase is altogether of princely dimensions and appearance amounting to upwards of 1300 Scotch acres. The number of white cattle at present kept is upwards of sixty. Great care is taken to prevent the domestic bull from crossing the breed and if accidentally a cross should take place the young is destroyed. In their general habits they resemble the fallow deer more than any other domestic animal. Having been exposed without shade or covering of any sort to the rigours of our climate from time immemorial, they are exceedingly hardy and having never been caught or subjected to the sway of man they are necessarily peculiarly wild and untractable."

"Their affection for their young, like that of many other animals in a wild or half wild state, is excessive. When dropt they carefully conceal them among long grass or weeds in some brushwood or thicket and approach them cautiously twice or thrice a day for the purpose of supplying them with the necessary nourishment. On these occasions it is not a little dangerous to approach the place of retreat, the parent cow being seldom at any great distance and always attacking any person or animal approaching it with the utmost resolution and fury."

"The young calves when unexpectedly approached betray great trepidation by throwing their ears back close upon their necks and lying squat down upon the ground. When hard pressed they have been known to run at their keepers in a butting menacing attitude in order to force their retreat. The young are produced at all seasons of the year but chiefly in spring. The mode of catching the calves is to steal upon them whilst slumbering or sleeping in their retreat when they are a day or two old, and put a cloth over their mouths to prevent them crying, and then carry them off to a place of safety without the reach of the herd; otherwise, the cry of the calf would attract the dam and she, by loud bellowing, would bring the whole flock to the spot to attack the keeper in the most furious manner."

"These cattle are seldom seen scattering themselves indiscriminately over the pasture like other breeds of cattle, but are generally observed to feed in a flock. They are very wary of being approached by strangers, and seem to have the power of smelling them at a great distance. When any one approaches them unexpectedly they generally go off to a little distance to the leeward and then turn round in a body to smell him. In these gambols they invariably affect circles, and when they do make an attack, which is seldom the case, should they miss the object of their aim they never return upon it, but run straight forward without ever venturing to look back. The only method of slaughtering these animals is by shooting at them. When the keepers approach them for this purpose they seem perfectly aware of their danger, and always gallop away with great speed in a dense mass, preserving a profound silence and generally keeping by the sides of the fields and fences"

"The cows which have young in the meantime forsake the flock and repair to the places where their calves are concealed, where with flaming eyeballs and palpitating hearts they seem resolved to maintain their ground at all hazards The shooters always take care to avoid these retreats. When the object of pursuit is one of the older bulls of the flock the shooting of it is a very hazardous employment. Some of these have been known to receive as many as eleven bullets without one of them piercing their skulls. When fretted in this manner they often become furious and owing to their great swiftness and prodigious strength they are then regarded as objects of no ordinary dread"

"The White Urus or Hamilton breed of wild cattle differs in many respects from any other known breed and as compared with those kept at Chillingham Park, Northumberland by Lord Tankerville." (The Plate pictured here is of the Hamilton herd, drawn in 1835, note both horned, polled, and undermarked are represented, it's presented sideways as it is on google books, but worth turning your head or your monitor to the side to look at, as it is much sharper and clearer than the large copy I have on the Picture of the Day link.)

"They (the Hamilton white cattle) are larger and more robust in the general form of their bodies, and their markings are also very different. In the Tankerville breed the colour is invariably white, muzzle black, the whole of the inside of the ear and about one third of the outside from the tip downwards red. (they were black muzzled and red eared, no doubt mineral deficient) The horns are very fine white with black tips and the head and legs are slender and elegant. In the Hamilton Urus, the body is dun white, the inside of the ears, the muzzle, and the hoofs black; and the fore part of the leg from the knee downwards mottled with black. The cows seldom have horns, their bodies are thick and short, their limbs are stouter, and their heads much rounder than in the Tankerville breed. The inside or roof of the mouth is black or spotted with black. The tongue is black and generally tipped with black. It is somewhat larger in proportion than that of the common cow, and the high ridge on the upper surface near to the insertion of the tongue is also very prominent. It is observable that the calves that are off the usual markings are either entirely black or entirely white or black and white, but never red or brown."

"The beef like that of the Tankerville breed is marbled and of excellent flavour and the juice is richer and of a lighter colour than in ordinary butcher meat. The size of the smaller cows does not exceed fifteen stones, . . . weight but some of the larger sort especially the bulls average from thirty five to forty five stones. The circumstances of their breeding in, and of beng chased so much when any of them are to be shot, of being so frequently approached and disturbed by strangers, and of having been exposed so long to all the vicissitudes of the seasons and constantly browsing the same pasture, have no doubt contributed greatly to the deterioration of the breed and must have reduced them much in size and other qualities."

"The favourite haunt of these animals in ancient times seems to have been the Caledonia Sylva or Caledonian Forest . . . . dividing the Picts from the Scots and being well furnished with game, especially with fierce white bulls and kine(means cow). It was the place of both their huntings and of their greatest controversies."

"The Roman historians delight much to talk of the furious white bulls which the Forest of Caledonia brought forth."

"In the sixteenth century they seem to have become entirely extinct as a wild race, and as we learn from Meaner, were all slain except in that part which is called Cummernad. Another author informs us that ". . .thocht thir bulls were bred in sindry boundis of the Colidin Wod (Caledonian Forest today) now be continewal hunting and lust of insolent men they are destroyit in all parts of Scotland and nane of them left but allenerlie in Cumernald." At what period the present breed were introduced to the royal chase at Cadzow cannot now be well ascertained. It is well known that the Cummings were at one period proprietors of Cadzow and Cumbernauld; and it is likely that in their time the white cattle were in both places. But be that as it may, they have long been extirpated at Cumbernauld, while they have been preserved in great perfection at Hamilton."

". . . .The universal tradition in Clydesdale is that they have been at Cadzow from the remotest antiquity, and the probability is that they are a part remaining of the establishment of our ancient British and Scottish kings. At present they are objects of great curiosity, both to the inhabitants and to strangers visiting the place. During the troubles consequent on the death of Charles I and the usurpation of Cromwell, they were nearly extirpated; but a breed of them having been retained for the Hamilton family by Hamilton Dalzell and by Lord El phingstone at Cumbernauld they were subsequently restored in their original purity."

Note from Jimmie: This really informative book was found on Google books, and I've had to add punctuation (and no doubt missed some that are needed!) as it didn't retain this on a cut a paste of the excerpts, as well there are misspellings that haven't been corrected that are a part of the original work..............