Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bakewell's Optimal Cow in 1856 . . . sounds a lot like the British White cows in my pastures today!

Excerpt from:  The American Farmer, Vol. XIV, 1858, Pg. 57
J.West's S.S. Carter sired heifer calf from an El Presidente daughter 
We find the following in Rural New Yorker extracted from the London Quarterly Review for April 1856

". . . The cattle of ancient days were chiefly valued for dairy qualities or for draft, and were only fatted when they would milk or draw no longer. The greater number of breeds were large boned and ill shaped, greedy eaters and slow at ripening, while as very little winter food was raised except hay, the meat laid on in summer was lost or barely maintained in winter. Fresh meat for six months of the year was a luxury only enjoyed by the wealthiest. 

      First class farmers salted down an old cow in autumn, which with their flitches of bacon, supplied their families with meat until the spring.   Esquire Bedel Gunning, in his Memorials of Cambridge, relates that when Dr Makepeace Thackeray settled in Chester about the beginning of the present century, he presented one of his tenants with a bull calf of a superior breed. On his inquiry after it in the spring,the tenant replied, "Sir, he was a noble animal, we killed him at Christmas and have lived upon him ever since." 

      The improvement of the breeds of live stock is one of the events which distinguish the progress of English Agriculture during the last century. Prominent among those who labored to this end was Robert Bakewell of Dishley, the founder of the Leicester sheep. He also had his favorite long horn cattle and black cart horses, and though he failed in establishing these he taught others how to succeed.

     Surrounded by the titled of Europe, he talked upon his favorite subject, breeding, with earnest yet playful enthusiasm, there utterly indifferent to vulgar traditional prejudices, he enumerated those axioms which must be the cardinal rules of the improvers of live stock. He chose the animals of the form and temperament which showed signs of producing the most fat and muscle, declaring that in an ox all was useless that was not beef, that he sought by pairing the best specimens, to make the shoulders comparatively little, the hind quarters large, to produce a body truly circular, with as short legs as possible, upon the plain principle that the value lies in the barrel and not in the legs, and to secure a small head small neck and small bones.

        As few things escaped his acute eye he remarked that quick fattening depended much upon amiability of disposition, and he brought his bulls by gentleness to be as docile as dogs.

. . .  But fine boned animals were not in fashion when Bakewell commenced his career, and to the majority of people it seemed a step backwards to prefer well made dwarfs to uncouth giants.

 . . . In 1798 the Little Smithfield Club was established for exhibiting fat stock at Christmas time in competition for prizes, with a specification of the food on which each animal had been kept. This Society has rendered essential service by making known the best kind of food, and by educating graziers and butchers in a knowledge of the best form of animal. 

      In 1806, in defiance of Mr Coke's toast, "Small in size and great in value," a prize was given to the tallest ox. In 1856 a little ox of the Devon breed of an egg like shape, which is the modern beau ideal, gained the Smithfield gold medal in competition with gigantic Short Horns, and Herefords of Elephantine proportions.  In 1855 a large animal of Sir Harry Verney's was passed over without even the compliment of a commendation -- because he carried on his carcass too much offal and more threepenny than nine penny beef."

(Note: Reprint of J.West 2007 topic)

Monday, December 31, 2012


Best Wishes for a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


Fall 2012 Carter Sired Calves from El Presidente Daughters

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Pair of Champions - British White Steer and His Showman!

British White Steer at 2012 Fort Bend County Fair in Rosenberg, Texas

Grant and British White Steer - Titus - Fort Bend County Fair
September 2012 - Both of these boys are champions. . . .

We all learned recently that the BWCAA board voted to award a monetary premium to kids who show British White animals and win champion in their class.  I have to say I find it a bit of an underwhelming and an ineffectual token effort at supporting or promoting the breed.  The fact is most kids take a huge risk of their time, effort, and money to show a British White heifer or steer.  So far as I'm concerned, these kids who stubbornly stick to their guns with their Ag teachers and parents and 4H advisers who vehemently counsel them NOT to choose a British White -- those kids ought to get an award of financial help from the BWCAA, not just a breed champion winner.  These kids are WINNERS simply by virtue of stepping out of the box and showing a British White animal!

Grant is just such a winner.  Grant took a grassfed steer out of the pasture and turned him in to a beautiful shining example of the breed.  Titus had been long since weaned, probably a good four months, and turned out to winter hay and alfalfa rations.  His counterparts in this steer competition most likely all came from grain backgrounding programs aimed at pushing their growth before they were even off their dams, halter broken at a young age, and made available as show steer possibilities right from the jump.  So that difference in background feeding was an enormous hurdle that Grant and Titus had to overcome and it was quite a challenge.  As for halter breaking - Titus was awesome about that, and Grant was quite happy with the ease of working with him and by all accounts Titus just loved all that attention. 

Titus was an American Fullblood sired by J.West's El Presidente and his dam was J.West's Brigit, a King Cole daughter.  While Titus did not place, the judge couldn't find a criticism to make of him that I could hear - except to say he would be a top contender in the group if he had had 60 more days of finish on him.  The judge did not even acknowledge that Titus was a British White!  Perhaps he did not know.  Hmmm....... Is that lack of breed awareness or respect my and my fellow small breeders' responsibility or fault?  Or is it the Association's lack of support in promoting our breed to the mainstream cattle industry?  If they don't find the cattle worth the monetary risk of supporting and promoting them - who will?

Titus in April 2012 at the School Barn
So far as I know there are no wealthy individual members who can hire a marketing firm for promotion and education or single-handedly orchestrate a steer test or British White show and sale for the benefit of all members and the breed.  And for certain, we small breeders can yak all day long about how awesome we find our British White cattle, put up nice web sites, take good photos, give away meat from our freezers, even practically give away bulls to get someone to try the breed - but that doesn't cut it in the long run because it is not data - real data - on the merits of the breed - and cattle are business - and successful businesses operate on supportable facts - not the fairy dust of words or opinions.  

Below is a video of Grant and Titus' big day at the fair. This was Grant's first effort at raising and showing a steer.  He learned a great deal in the process, and I did as well, as he kept me abreast of the feeding regimen and weight gain as things progressed, as well as shared lots of amusing stories of Titus' good-natured antics.  I was very proud of him and his steer.  Grant didn't get Titus until late in the game, and that no doubt contributed to the lack of finish the judge observed, and I didn't help any by trying to get Titus transitioned to grain from grass a bit too fast.  That was a disaster to say the least, and Titus looked woefully thin and not at all a show contender.  Despite how pathetic Titus looked when Grant picked him up, I think he and I both hung on to the picture of him in our minds of how he was just weeks before and what he could be.    

Youngsters like Grant with a strong passion for the breed who resolve to show them against all odds and advice are the future of this breed - and each one should be applauded and awarded for their efforts.  And no doubt devoted Mom's like Grant's mother, Darlene, would certainly appreciate the acknowledgement of the very special grit and determination of their kids who insist on showing a British White.

Back to this new premium for showing winning registered BWCAA animals - I would also add that most kids will only ever be able to receive the lowest "premium" of $100 that is designated if "breed consists of 1 animal" and they are blue ribbon winners by default, as you will rarely find a show with more than one British White animal.  And further, the fair authorities would have to give you your own breed category!  Of course, if it is one heckuva steer or heifer, perhaps they might when "Champion Other Breeds" - one can always hope.  And also, I noticed it had to be a State Fair.  What's up with that?  Showing starts at the ground up, just like a political race, and it would appear the smaller county fairs that lead up to State Fairs just don't cut the mustard.  Unfathomable....

If the BWCAA can afford to waste about $2K on a useless and wholly unnecessary compilation and review (there is no such thing as a "review audit") and now another $2K? on officer's liability insurance each year - then surely our BWCAA member fees can be allocated a bit more generously to these FEW youngsters across the USA who stubbornly take on the world to show their British White steers and heifers.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

British White Cattle Mugs, Shirts, Cards, Magnets and More - Unique and Original

British White Cattle Originals - Unique Gift Items

I have created lots of British White items on Cafepress.com with cow photos, particularly my old Wanda Mae, an outstanding British White cow.  Below are a few examples of the items available, and I hope to have more in the future, so be sure and check back!

You can visit the shop at www.Cafepress.com !!!  Thanks for having a look and let me know if you are happy/unhappy with the products, have suggestions, etc...

British White Cattle Herd - Large Mug
British White Cow Herd Behind the Fence - Mug Available on CafePress

British White Cow - Color #2 Large Mug
British White Cow  - Large Mug Available on Cafepress

British White cow at Pasture - #3 Women's T-Shirt
British White Cow T-Shirt Available on Cafepress

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ancient Kuri Cattle of West Africa & and the Park Color Pattern

This quite powerful and stunning image made me gasp and my jaw dropped with a stunned 'OMG'.  It was kindly sent to me by Andrew West of Cornwall, England.  Andrew tells me in regard to the caption for this image ". . . roughly translated it says they are `Gehornte Kuri-Rinder from the Buduma Area of West Africa`.

Kuri-Rinder from the Buduma Area of West Africa

If ever there was a photo or painting that made one immediately think of the kinship between the ancient auroch and both the polled and horned white Park cattle of today - this one would be it.  The distinct color pattern - which is commonly referred to as the Park color pattern by geneticists today - is a color pattern found across the world in highly distinguished breeds of great antiquity and tradition.  The Kuri is clearly another such breed, and I am pleased to have had it brought to my attention.

These Kuri Cattle have a quite mild demeanor (they are used for both milking and beef) about them in the image above and look to be moderate in size.  The average birth weight of Kuri calves is just over 50 pounds, with the females weighing about 950 lbs. Their horns are reminiscent of the depictions of the skeletal remains of aurochs.  Note the very large diameter of the base of the horns in this skeletal image.

Aurochs bull at the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen from 7400 BC

 cattle are predominantly white although various colours are often present. Kuri owners seem to have a general preference for white breeding bulls. The distinguishing characteristic of the Kuri breed is its horns: they are immense, consisting of a lightweight fibrous material with a spongy interior and a very thin external shell."  (The unique Kuri cattle of Lake Chad BasinNtombizakhe Mpofu and J.E.O. Rege,  2002)
Today the predominant cattle type in Africa is Zebu based, or bos indicus. But -- it is widely held that the indigenous cattle of Africa were bos taurus.  DNA studies of a wide variety of cattle breeds in Africa, including the Zuri, confirm that the Zuri is in fact of bos taurus descent.
"African cattle are believed, from prehistoric artistic representations, to have been Bos taurus (taurine) in morphology. . . The indicine (bos indicus) allele was observed in all West African breeds (including taurine breeds like the N’DamaMuturu, Somba, Kapsiki and Namchi) except the Kuri and shorthorn Lagune breeds." ( Mpofu & Rege, 2002)
The Zuri apparently have a unique adaptation to their native hot and humid environment.  They are excellent swimmers and often are led across portions of the waterways of Lake Chad by their herdsmen to reach new grazing areas, even grazing in water to eat fresh grass or sea grass, that tops the surface.  Their horns, while being massive and distinctive, are actually quite light in weight and thought to be an adaptation to their native environment of many thousands of years.
"Although the horns are generally very light, approximately 1% of Kuri cattle have such heavy horns that their heads are, to some extent, tipped up by the weight. It has been suggested that, by tipping back the head, the weight of the horns keeps the nostrils out of the water when swimming. The bulbous base and spongy interior of Kuri horns are assumed to be an adaptation to aid buoyancy when swimming. Some selection within the Kuri has resulted in other horn shapes such as lyre- or crescent-shaped horns."   ( Mpofu & Rege, 2002)
"In the dry season, the animals follow their herdsmen in swimming through the waters from island to island in search of waterweeds as feed . . . There are tribes who move their cattle to upland areas during the peak of the wet season and return them to the lowlands in the dry season . . . Animals are generally divided into transhumant and non-transhumant herds. The latter are comprised of lactating cows (and their calves) which are left to provide milk to the children and older people who stay behind to fish and farm. Transhumance is, however, limited to the environs of the lake, probably because of the susceptibility of the Kuri to sunlight and heat and its limited ability to trek long distances."  ( Mpofu & Rege, 2002)

I've read lots and lots of old articles from the early to mid 19th century and beyond that debated the notion, or myth, that the horned white Park cattle (primarily the Chillingham herd) that roamed the British Isles were actually some how a singularly pure and direct descendant of the 'auroch' race -- aurochs being the original truly wild and very large beasts that inhabited Europe, Asia, and Africa.   That old myth has been well debunked in the 21st century.  Even so, the color pattern was clearly present in both the European and African auroch.

The Zuri quite beautifully exhibit the Park color pattern, and particularly the recessive red that was the subject of the greatest portion of the first recorded European oral and written histories that reference both the milk-white polled and horned examples of white cattle bearing the Park color pattern.

Cave Painting in Lascaux ,France - c. 15,000 B.C.
I've run across representations of cave paintings over the years that included illustrations of white beasts, speckled beasts, and black ones with a white line down their back - which, as discussed in a February blog, has long been known as the Riggit pattern.  What I never realized is those cave paintings are considered to be drawings of the auroch - so I deserve quite a thump on the head for missing that!

Cave Painting in Lascaux, France
You can see in this first photo that the aurochs represented in this French cave painting are white, with darker noses, and actually speckled as well.  And this next one also shows a white speckled auroch, along with a horse and some other type of small animals which are portrayed as brownish in color.  The ears and nose are distinguished as a different color in both drawings, and in the first drawing you can see that the legs are dark - quite like both the horned and polled Park cattle of today.

In 2010 it was reported that an experiment had commenced to attempt to re-create an auroch from breedings amongst those modern day domestic breeds considered to be most representative of the auroch.  In this article from The Telegraph we are told that the Highland of Britain and the ". . . white Maremma breed from Italy," are two of the breeds being used in this experimental "back-breeding".  If you do a web search for images of the Maremma breed, you get results with both white examples and grey examples of this breed, also two different spellings:  Maremma and Maremmana .  Here is a photo of a "white Maremmana" . . . 

Maremmana Cattle
White Maremmana - by Amenon on Flickr

The inclusion of the white Maremma in this experiment certainly indicates that the scientific community considers the Park color pattern to be one of great antiquity that indeed was found in the indigenous aurochs of prehistoric times.  But then, I would think that most every basic, or root, coloration of modern day domestic cattle would track back to ancestral aurochs . . . What I find sad, inexplicable, and irritating is that clearly the milk white auroch of prehistoric times --  as well as the milk white cow of modern recorded history  -- were both highly revered back in days long long gone . . . NOW, they are generally found undesirable here in the USA by the commercial cattle industry . . .  thanks in large part to the promotional success of Certified Angus Beef  and the dominating USA demand for black hided cattle.

The future of British White Cattle continues to be in the hands of largely hobby farmers in the USA.  Their owners are captivated by their beauty and uniquely gentle natures, and of course the quality of the beef.  If you would like to help promote greater awareness and acceptance of polled British White Cattle in the mainstream cattle industry  - visit  the United Kingdom's British White Cattle Society web site for additional information.
Lascaux Cave Painting, France