Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chillingham Cattle - Black ears or Red? - Local 'tame' cows turned out to pasture with the wild Chillingham herd!

These excerpts are from a quite respectable 1792 pubication:

A General History of Quadrapeds,c. 1792, by Thomas Bewick & Ralph Beilby

Can't tell you how many times I've read the Chillingham owners had the black eared ones killed, the wholly black ones, and anything not perfectly backward even for those times. A lack of copper in your pasture's soil will cause your otherwise black-eared cattle to have red ears (the muzzle, or nose, will generally remain black in a copper deficiency). Did they slaughter the black-eared ones when by chance the soils were healthy every few years?  Apparently so.........

"The white wild cattle of Chillingham Park have a pile much resembling the Tees Water, but they have uniformly black muzzles, hoofs, and the tips of the horns... the horn denoting the kindred breed above all other circumstances, and on that account the wild cattle must be related to the native cattle of Wales, Scotland and Ireland, the height, colour and direction of the homs being similar. This declaration in Nature, the similarity of horn,..." Source: The Country Gentleman's Magazine,1876 

Above we find reference to the preference for the black-eared ones, as well as a clear indication of the Size of the cattle.  Those not at Chillingham were "much larger" weighing about "50 stone" which equates to about 700 lbs, easily 40% of the average weight of a domestic cow in the USA today. 

As a side note, there are many early references to the Chillingham cattle having black points. Those pocket-book politics I've referred to before came to a resounding head in modern times, as well as in the late 19th and early 20th century, to try to present the Chillingham herd as something distinct, purely preserved, and genetically linked back to the ancient urus/aurochs of Britain -- even in the 19th century many writers found this notion absurd.

The reality is that the Chillingham herd itself has at least once been down to one female in calf who produced a bull sometime between 1776 and 1836, based on various writers descriptions of the existing stock.
"The stock at Chillingham was once reduced to a cow in calf. The produce fortunately proved a bull." (Jardine, 1836).
It is inconceivable that this bull was not crossed with locally desirable cattle. As well there are ample sources which tell us that English Longhorn, Welsh Black/White, and Highland were used to perpetuate the breed type.  It is truly absurd that in the present day the horned Chillingham cattle are perceived as being more closely kin to the ancient auroch that roamed the British Isles than any other bovine beast -- this notion has been greeted with educated skepticism from it's first pronouncement from the Lord of Chillingham in the early 19th century.

From Bewick in 1792 we also learn:

I'm not sure how these wild Chillingham cattle were penned and the tames ones subsequently sorted off. Based on the following excerpt from Youatt's, The Complete Grazier, 1893, the Chillingham calves apparently couldn't even be weaned from their dams.