1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Cattle Breeds - (c) Mountain Breeds

Agriculture
(Part 82)




XVI. LIVESTOCK - CATTLE (cont.)

Cattle Breeds - (b) Mountain Breeds


The mountainous part of Great Britain are not less favoured than the lowlands in the possessing breeds of cattle peculiarly adapted to the exigencies of the climate.

The Kyloes or West Highland cattle are the most prominent of this group. They are widely diffused over the highlands of Scotland, but are found in the greatest perfection in the larger Hebrides. Well-bred oxen of this breed, when of mature growth and in good condition, exhibit a symmetry of form and noble bearing which is unequalled by any cattle in the kingdom. Although somewhat slow in arriving at maturity, they are contended with the coarsest fare, and ultimately get fat where the daintier short-horns could barely exist. Their hardly constitution, thick mellow hide, and shaggy coat, peculiarly adapt them for a cold humid climate and coarse pasturage. Fewer of these cattle are now reared in the Highlands than formerly, owing to the lessened numbers of cottars and small tenants, the extension of sheep husbandry, and latterly from the excessive multiplication of deer forests. Large herds of cows are, however, kept on large portions of farms as are unsuited for sheep walks. The milk of these cows is very rich, but as they yield in the small quantity, and go soon dry, they are unsuited for the dairy, and are kept almost solely for the purpose of suckling each her own calf. The calves are generally housed during their first winter, but after that they shift for themselves out of doors all the year round. Vast drove of these cattle are annually transferred to the lowlands, where they are in the request for their serviceableness in consuming profitably the produce of coarse pastures and the leavings of daintier stock. Those of a dun or tawny colour are often selected for grazing in the parks of the aristocracy, where they look quite as picturesque as the deer with which they are associated. Indeed, they strikingly resemble to so-called wild cattle that are carefully preserved in the parks of several of our nobility, and like them are probably the descendants of the cattle of the ancient Britons. This view is confirmed by the strong family likeness borne to them by the

Welsh cattle, which is quite what might be expected from the many features physical and historical, which the two provinces have in common. Although the cattle of Wales, as a whole, are obviously of common origin, they are yet ranged into several groups, which owe their distinctive features either to peculiarities of soil and climate or to intermixture with other breeds. The Pembrokes may be taken as the type of the mountain groups. These are hardy cattle, which thrive on scanty pasturage and in a humid climate. They excel the West Highlanders in this respect, that they make good dairy cattle, the cows being peculiarly adapted for cottagers’ purposes. When fattened they yield beef of excellent quality. Their prevailing and most esteemed colour is black, with deep orange on the naked parts. The Anglesea cattle are larger and coarser than the Pembrokes, and those of Merioneth and the higher districts are smaller, and inferior to them in evry respect. The county of Glamorgan possesses a peculiar breed, bearing its name which has long been in estimation for combined grazing and dairy purposes. It has latterly been so much encroached upon by Harefords and short-horns that there seems some likelihood of its becoming extinct, which will be cause for regret unless pains are taken to occupy its place with cattle not inferior to it in dairy qualities. We conclude this rapid review of our native breeds by noticing the most singular in them all, viz,

The Shetland cattle, which are the most diminutive in the world. The carcase of a Shetland cow, when fully fattened, scarcely exceeds in weight that of a long-woolled wether. These little creatures are, however, excellent milkers in proportions to their size; they are very hardy, are contended with the scantiest pasturage, come early to maturity, are easily fattened, and their beef surpasses that of all other breeds for tenderness and delicacy for flavour. The diminutive cows of this breed are not infrequently coupled with short-horn bulls, and the progeny from such apparently preposterous unions not only posses admirable fattening qualities, but approximate in bulk in their sires. These curious and handsome little creatures, apparently of Scandinavian origin, are so peculiary fitted to the circumstances of their bleak and stormy habitat, that the utmost pains ought to be taken to preserve the breed in purity, and to improve it by judicious treatment.






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