Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cattle (the same word as capital, i.e. wealth. and another form of chattel), a term formerly used to denote property in general, hence transferred to cows and oxen, which constituted the chief wealth in pastoral times. It is an agricultural rather than a zoological term; and the different breeds known to English farmers, with some others on the Continent of Europe, are all forms of the domestic ox (Bos taurus). Those with which we are chiefly concerned - the breeds of the United Kingdom - are usually reckoned to be fourteen in number (Shorthorns, Herefords, Devons, Sussex, Norfolk Red Polled, Longhorns, Welsh, Black Galloways, Kerrys, Polled Aberdeen-Angus, West Highland, Ayrshire, Jerseys, and Guernseys). These forms differ greatly in size, shape, and colour, as will be seen in the detailed description of each breed. This diversity is due to four factors: - (1) The mixed origin of the present breeds; (2) the tendency of animals to vary under domestication (q.v.); (3) the fancy of breeders for perpetuating any given variation; and (4) the effect of environment (q.v.). The period at which cattle were first domesticated must be very remote, as they are mentioned in the earliest writings of which we have any knowledge, and their bones have been discovered in dwellings dating back to Neolithic times. It is generally supposed by naturalists that the European breeds - our own included - are descended from three distinct forms - Bos primigenius. B. frontosus, and B. longifrons. To these some systematists give specific rank, but Lyddeker and Nicholson consider B. primigenius to have been only a variety of B. taurus, and the last two mere stunted races, from which it is probable that the small cattle of Wales and Scotland are derived. The first, mentioned by Caesar as the Urus (q.v.). though practically extinct, has left some descendants not greatly altered, except in size, from the original type. These live in a half-wild state in herds in Chillingham Park, Northumberland, and at Cadzow, near Hamilton, Lanarkshire, while much smaller herds exist at some other places, and at least one herd has died out within living memory. They are white in colour, with black rims round the eyes, the muzzle, hoofs, and tips of the horns black, the inside of the ears reddish-brown, and the flanks and shoulders shaded with grey. Other descendants are still to be found in Hungary, Spain, and Italy, but these differ more widely from the parent form.

1. Shorthorns are the most numerous, most widely distributed, and most important of all the native breeds. They originated in the north of England, and were first bred systematically by the brothers Colling, of Barmpton and Ketton. Durham, who profited by the experience of Mr. Bakewell, of Dishley, Leicester, to whom the improvement in Longhorns is due. The first public sale of cattle of this breed by the Collings took place in 1810. when the bull "Comet" fetched £1,050. During their lifetime Mr. Bates, of Kirklevington, and Mr. Booth, of Warlaby, also bred Shorthorns, and from their stock are descended two strains known respectively as "Bates" and "Booth" Shorthorns. The general outline is square, the coat mossy, the muzzle and skin round the eye cream-coloured, the horns of moderate length; the colour varies from red to white, or is red and white mixed. These cattle are very docile, arrive early at maturity, make little offal, are good milkers, and lay on flesh readily.

2. Herefords are about equal to Shorthorns as meat-producing animals, but as milkers they must take a lower place. The herd which fixed the characters of this breed was sold in 1810, and so supplied sires and dams to farmers outside Herefordshire. In form these cattle are longer than the Shorthorns, with deeper shoulders and the buttocks not quite so straight. The general colour is red, with the face, breast, belly, feet, top of tail, and tops of the shoulders white. This breed is in high estimation in many parts of the United States and in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

3. The Devons are a small, symmetrical race, found chiefly in Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Hants, and Wilts. They vary in colour from a rich dark red to chestnut, occasionally with a patch of white on, or just in front of the udder. The oxen are much larger than the cows or bulls, and make admirable draught animals. The hair may be smooth, or curly and mossy, and the skin is often mottled. The shoulders are smooth, and the back well rilled behind them; the general form compact, and the buttocks somewhat rounded. These cattle do not give large quantities of milk, but the quality is high, and Devonshire cream is noted all over the country. On a given quantity of food it is said that they will make more beef than any other breed, while the meat itself is firm, well-flavoured, and juicy. The bone is usually very fine, and the quantity of offal is small.

4. Sussex cattle are in many points similar to Devons. They are red in colour, but of much larger size, coarser, not so symmetrical in form, and with large, spreading horns. They are probably descended from the original Devons. They were largely bred for draught and for the butcher, to the neglect of their dairy qualities, but, with the disuse, to a large extent, of oxen for draught animals, more attention is being paid by breeders to the capacity of the cows for producing milk.

5. The Norfolk Red Polled cattle are said to have originated from the Suffolk poll, which was the result of crossing the old Suffolk dun with the cattle of the district. The Suffolk duns were yellowish-red cows, supposed to be the descendants of the Galloways formerly driven from Scotland to fatten in the fertile meadows of East Anglia. In general form the Norfolk Red Poll is not unlike the Sussex, but the horns are replaced by the high knobs which always mark hornless cattle. The colour is a uniform rich red. Till recent years Norfolk and Suffolk were more noted for corn-growing and grazing than for dairy farming, but latterly more attention has been paid to the production of milk, and these cattle are now bred so as to combine a good yield of milk with the quality of rapidly laying on flesh.

6. Longhorns are very distinct in character, and unlike any other race. They originated in the Vale of Craven in the west of Yorkshire and the east of Lancashire, and were the first race systematically bred with a view to perpetuate useful points and to eliminate defects. This good work was accomplished by Robert Rakewell, of Dishley, near Loughborough, Leicestershire, about the middle of the eighteenth century, and to him is due the credit of having laid the foundation of the systematic breeding of modern times. Rakewell did his work so well that the breed soon spread all over England. The Shorthorns were the first to contest their supremacy, and now the race is rapidly diminishing. The body is long, and supported by short legs; the colour is brindled with mixed red, yellow, and black, and black and white, with the white predominating along the back and belly. The peculiar feature is the horns, which are often over 30 inches long; they grow downwards and turn in towards the jaw, sometimes to such an extent as to prevent the beasts grazing short grass. The breed was esteemed both for dairy and grazing purposes.

7. The Welsh Cattle are closely related to the half-wild cattle of Chillingham and Cadzow. Three strains of blood, if not three breeds, may be noted: - (1) The Glamorgans, now nearly or quite extinct. They were excellent milkers, and made good beef. The cows were red or rich brown, and the bulls invariably black with more or less white. (2) The Angleseas, celebrated as grazing stock, and differing little from (3) the Pembrokes or Castle Martins, which should be black, any white being regarded as an indication of strange blood. They are very hardy, and useful both to the grazier and the dairy farmer.

8. Black Galloways are an ancient breed found principally in the three counties of Scotland which lie farthest to the south-west - Wigton, Kirkendbright, and Dumfries. They are strongly built, rather low in stature, of hardy constitution, jet black in colour, and hornless. The milk-producing qualities of this breed have been neglected, and they have been bred with the view to producing as much meat as possible. The milk, however, is very rich in fats, and the breed would improve greatly as milkers if more attention were devoted to this point, and the practice of allowing the calves to suck the dams were abandoned. In Scotland these cattle are rarely housed, and the young are generally sold to graziers in England for fattening.

9. The Kerrys are undoubtedly aboriginal and the only native Irish breed. They are slender in form, with fine long limbs, small head, and horns which, after projecting forwards, turn suddenly backwards. The general colour is black, with a small patch of white in front of the udder. They are very numerous in County Kerry, are excellent milkers, and from their gentle disposition and capacity to do well when tethered on small bits of grass are well adapted for small villa farms. House-feeding also agrees with them admirably. The Dexter variety has a round plump body, short, thick legs, heavier head, and longer, straighter, and coarser horns.

10. Polled Aberdeen and Angus, though originally distinct breeds, are now generally classed as one. They bear a general resemblance to the Galloways, but are longer in the limbs and not so compactly built. They are very hardy, good breeders, little liable to disease, arrive early at maturity, and fatten quickly. The prevailing colour is black, but dun and shades of yellow are not uncommon. The cows give a small quantity of milk for their size, but the bad practice of allowing the calves to suck the dams is chargeable with this, for many Angus cows make good dairy cattle. This breed won the prize at the Paris Exhibition of 1878 for the best group of foreign cattle.

11. West Highland Cattle or Kyloes are essentially mountain cattle, and representatives of an ancient race, and those of the mainland greatly exceed in size those of the islands of Orkney and Shetland. They are distinguished by their symmetrical form, their fearless mien, shaggy coats, and long horns, with which they are apt to gore each other, for their disposition is pugnacious. In hue they are generally self-coloured - yellowish brown, black, silver-grey, or red, but occasionally brindled. They are very hardy animals, and will pick up a subsistence where lowland cattle would starve. Their carriage is bold and striking, and they are often kept in parks. The cows give a fair quantity of milk for their size, but the breed is more valued as meat-producers; their beef is of excellent quality and commands a high price.

12. The Ayrshires are a hardy breed of heavy-milking dairy cattle, with an infusion of West Highland blood, which is shown by the shape of the horns and the temper of the animals. They are of small size, and the general colour is red and white or yellow and white, occasionally self-coloured, and shaded to dark brown. According to Mr. Scott Burn (Outlines of Modern Farming), cattle of this breed are justly celebrated for dairy purposes; indeed, they seem to possess the power of converting the elements of food more completely than any other breed into cheese and butter.

13. Jersey Cattle are distinguished by their deer-like head, full eyes, and curved horns. They are of medium size and generally fawn with a darkish shade, which is not inaptly described as smoke-coloured, and which approaches that of the cattle of Switzerland and the Tyrol. They are essentially butter cows, and lay on flesh slowly. A few are often kept in large dairies to impart a rich colour to the milk and butter.

14. The Guernsey Cattle are somewhat larger and fuller in form, of hardier constitution, and yellow and white in colour. They are good milkers, and are frequently kept by private householders. Both these breeds were formerly known as Alderneys, from the fact that Alderney was the shipping point from the other islands to England, and so gave its name to all cattle exported to England from Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, or the mainland of France. In the Channel Islands the cattle are always tethered or tended by children, and are never allowed to roam at will.

The cattle of the chief English colonies are, as might be expected, in large measure descendants of English breeds, or the native cattle have been greatly modified by the importation of English bulls for breeding purposes. A similar state of things obtains in the United States, where herds exist in no whit inferior to many of those in Britain, and on that side of the Atlantic, as on this, the Shorthorns are, on the whole, the most highly esteemed.