Friday, June 17, 2011

Spotted Calves Born in the Dinefwr herd of White Park Cattle in Wales

"So. . . you don't like my spots?  Check out my horned Welsh cousins . . ."
  J.West's Tootsie, Sired by J.West's S.S. Carter 

You have to see this May 2011 video of  horned White Park Cattle on the grounds of old Dinefwr Castle in Wales.  Some of the cows have calves at foot, and altogether it is a perky upbeat video you don't want to miss.  But, Lawrence Alderson, late of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in the UK, must be cringing every time he thinks about this video in the public venue.  This particular herd of White Park Cattle have been under his purview for many years, and the very natural manifestation of SPOTS in many of the calves quite belies the sputtering stance of the horned White Park breeding either all white or all black bodied calves -- or was that just the theoretical genetically pure Chillingham herd that purportedly only has solid black calves occasionally, never parti-coloured or spotted?  Hard to keep up with the yarns. 

Regardless, the Dinefwr cattle are quite beautiful, very impressive, and I was glad to have the video brought to my attention.  It is interesting to note that you can only identify one or two cows with spots along the neck in this magnificent herd.  Sadly, I'm fairly sure all those pretty calves with spots are not long for this world, as in days of old they'll be culled by the knife as unacceptable - male and female alike.  It would appear that despite all these decades upon decades leading to well over a known century of killing spotted or overly colored calves -- those babies just keep on coming.   Why?  Because spotted calves are a natural manifestation of the breed's genetics -- accept that, embrace that, and you won't be so upset when two perfectly white animals give you a calf with spots.

"I was snow white when I was born!  My skin grayed or blued,
 depending on who you talk to, or maybe it was that way from the get go, ask my human Mom,  she might not have noticed at the time, all I know is I'm
 this cool dun white color!"  J.West's El Presidente

In regions of the country where the sun can be intense, it is preferable to have cattle with gray or black or blue skin, whatever you choose to name it, both around the eyes and nose and on the vulva and rectum of the cow, as both are constantly bearing the rays of the sun thoughout their life moreso than any other vulnerable area of your cows.  In my experience, a British White cow with black spots on her body hair will also be more likely to have sun protective black spotted skin on her vulva and rectum, as well as all the rest of the desirable dark pigmentation of the eyes, nose, teats, etc... When possible, breeding decisions should include consideration for maintaining or improving the skin pigment of sun vulnerable areas, particularly in hot climates such as Texas.

The Dynevwr (Dinefwr) herd of white cattle actually date back to at least the 10th century A.D.   Records exist that document the payment of white cattle with colored points as a tribute to the ". . . Welsh lord of Deheubarth" by those seeking his pardon.

Here is a passage from a lovely Welsh fairy tale, The Lady of the Lake, that makes reference to the Dynevwr (Dinefwr) herd of white cattle - and it's good to see the dear Lady thought enough of the speckled and spotted cows that she took them on home as well.  This old version of the fairy tale provides some of the original Welsh language side by side with the English translation.  Follow this link to the Sacred-Texts copy of The Lady of the Lake if you'd like to read the whole charming story.

She started off immediately towards Esgair Llaethdy, and when she arrived home, she called her cattle and other stock together, each by name. The cattle she called thus:
Mu wlfrech, moelfrech - Brindled cow, bold freckled,

Mu olfrech, gwynfrech - Spotted cow, white speckled;

Pedair cae tonn-frech - Ye four field sward mottled.

Yr hen wynebwen - The old white-faced,

A'r las Geigen - And the grey Geigen

Gyda'r tarw gwyn - With the white bull

O lys y Brenin - From the court of the King,

A'r llo du bach - And thou little black calf,

Sydd ar y bach - Suspended on the hook,

Dere dithe, yn iach adre! - Come thou also, whole again, home!

"I come by my spots honestly and where them proudly . . . no worries, just keep me in green grass!"
J.West's Tom Sawyer - Sired by the English bull De Beauvoir Huckleberry Finn, and his own dam was sired by the English bull Woodbastwick Randolph Turpin . . . so he's pretty predominantly English with a great American punch by way of his Popeye sired granddam, HRH Bountiful, bred by Halliburton Farms.