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". . . insisted on getting seven hundred white cows with red ears. . ." The Progress of the Wicked Bard

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Misc. References  -  Breed HistoryMain Literary and Historical Reference Page
Work in Progress - Last Update 01/18/2010  

“He is called Fiachaidh Fionnoladh, for oladh is a name for a cow, and most of the cows of Ireland were white (fionn) in his time; hence he was called Fiachaidh Fionnoladh. Know that, according to Stowe's Chronicle, there were Scots residing in Aiba in the year of the Lord 73, very soon after Fiachaidh Fionnoladh held the sovereignty of Ireland, and that was before Cairbre Riada lived. And this Fiachaidh was treacherously slain by the rustic tribes of Ireland.” (The History of Ireland  ;BOOK I-II, Section 38; Page 237; Author: Geoffrey Keating)

“700 -- Three shields were seen as if fighting in the sky, from east to west, like tossing waves, on the tranquil night of the Ascension of the Lord. The first was snowy, the second fiery, the third bloody, which it is thought prefigured three evils to follow: for in the same year herds of cattle throughout Ireland were almost destroyed, not only in Ireland, but indeed throughout Europe. In the next year there was a human plague for three consecutive years. Afterwards came the greatest famine, in which men were reduced to unmentionable foods.” (Fragmentary Annals of Ireland, Annal FA 143; p. 47, Radner)

"Early accounts have suggested that hornless or polled cattle were introduced to Ireland and Britain from Scandinavia by Viking settlers (Wilson 1909). However, this theory is contradicted by the presence of polled cattle in the Irish archaeological record prior to the appearance of the Vikings (McCormick 1987)." DNAanalysis of cattle from Viking Dublin 1999, D. E.MacHugh and others, P. 100. 

“914 -- A great fleet of Norwegians landed at Port Láirge, and they plundered northern Osraige and brought great spoils and many cows and livestock to their ships.” (Fragmentary Annals of Ireland, Annal FA 458; p. 181, Radner)  This particular excerpt is of great interest as it is the Vikings who are taking cattle from the British Isles, rather than bringing them and forever leaving a "Scandinavian" influence behind, and for that reason is included here, and likewise the excerpt below is of great interest to the history of the white cattle and all other breeds of Ireland and the British Isles. 

“I shall come to you in the guise of a hornless red heifer in front of the cattle and they will rush upon you at many fords and pools yet you will not see me in front of you. . . Thither then the Morrigan  came in the shape of a white, hornless, red-eared heifer, with fifty heifers about her and a chain of silvered bronze between each two of the heifers  (The Conversation of the Mórrígan with Cú Chulainn, The Tain, Translated by Joseph Dunn, P. 169, 2005)

". . . The full of the dun in hornless dun kine was given to the mason for building it, but one cow was wanting: and in lieu of her this price was given to the mason, that the dun should bear his name, even Dun Rois Sarach: but its name from of yore was Dun Tri Liac.” (The Metrical Dindshenchas, DÚN RUISSARACH, Poem 94, P. 293)

". . . After Candlemas (rough was their herding) came the unvanquished bull to Cnoc Tarbga, dense resort of the people: it was a dwelling of dread for many a man. . . .They made a proudly-matched pair, the Dun Bull of Cualnge and the White-Horn, before the eyes of a host (a wealthy dwelling) about the rough-flanked hill of Tarbga.   They fought a fierce combat on miry ground on the seventh day of spring:  and the White-Horn fell therein by the wild-wood bull (note: dun colored) of Sliab Fuait.”  (The Metrical Dindshenchas, poem 65, Ath Luain, P. 372)

". . .When Athirne the cruel came he abode in the rich mountain: seven hundred kine, red-eared, pure white, he carried off as a gift to him from the Leinstermen.  Boldly came the Leinstermen to bring back the tribute; eastward to Sliab Etar by the shore to sack it over the poet. . . Conor mac Nessa came, seven hundred with him in fierceness of might, to dispute the choice cattle. . ."  

“. . . the Ulstermen who were not subdued inflicted defeat on the four provinces of the Gaels. They drank up the pool, a spot not narrow, in Mag Find after the great hardships; without water flowing in pure streams was Boyne on the morrow.  It was after the slaughter of the wounded hosts he carried off with him his white herd, prize of deeds; Athirne went his way and was not hurt through the protection of the Ulstermen, O Etar.” (The Metrical Dindshenchas, Bend Etair I, Poem 14, P. 109)


"Come yellow Anvil, stray horns, Speckled one of the lake, And of the hornless Dodlin, Arise, come home.  Only one cow remained of all the farmer's herds, and she had turned from milky white to raven black.  Whereupon the farmer in despair drowned himself in the lake of the green ladies, and the black cow became the progenitor of the existing race of Welsh black cattle.  (Of particular interest here beyond the ancient mention of hornless cattle, and the interesting 'stray' horn, is that the polled British White is actually most similar to the Welsh Black and Lincoln Red breeds of today in terms of Sera Protein Frequencies per the Roslin Institute Genetic Database .)  See the full text of this story at this link Magical Welsh White Cow.


 “Polled cattle apparently existed in Scotland before recorded history because the likeness of such cattle is found in prehistoric carvings of Aberdeen and Angus. Historians state that there were hornless cattle in Siberia centuries earlier. A hornless race of cattle was depicted in Egypt by sculptors and painters of that ancient civilization. Some historians feel that the Aberdeen-Angus breed and the other Scottish breeds sprang from the aboriginal cattle of the country and that the breeds as we find them today are indigenous to the districts in which they are still found.”  (Source: http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/cattle/angus/ )


“We were also interested in these cattle because at one time we ran Shorthorns in very large wooded pastures where many of them became quite wild.  There were many cases in which they reverted to red ears or black ears and we thought there must be some connection between the Shorthorn cattle and the Wild Park Cattle of England.  In fact, I do believe this to be the case.”  (Robert J. Kleberg, King Ranch, July 1981, in correspondence to the Earl of Tankerville) 

Captain Jean Delacour of the New York Zoological Society states on Feb. 10, 1942 in correspondence to the King Ranch: “. . . they are neither wild nor vicious.  In fact, they are just a breed of very old and primitive domestic cattle – the probable ancestors of Shorthorns.” 

". . .Now, an experienced breeder, Mr. J. Beasley, of Northamptonshire (13/28. 'Gardener's Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette' 1866 page 528.), crossed some carefully selected West Highland cows with purely-bred shorthorn bulls. The bulls were red, red and white, or dark roan; and the Highland cows were all of a red colour, inclining to a light or yellow shade. But a considerable number of the offspring--and Mr. Beasley calls attention to this as a remarkable fact--were white, or white with red ears. Bearing in mind that none of the parents were white, and that they were purely-bred animals, it is highly probable that here the offspring reverted, in consequence of the cross, to the colour of some ancient and half-wild parent-breed."  CHARLES DARWIN  (Also, bear in mind that Darwin was only aware of the emparked herds of white cattle of relatively recent centuries in history, and thus the half 'feral' conclusion.)


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