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Breed History  - British White Cattle
Ancient Literary References to polled British White Cattle 

Bronx Zoo Article

Miscellaneous New References of Interest & Importance 

Ancient History of British White Cattle Explored
Ongoing Project: A rather lengthy exploration of the ancient reach of the British White breeds importance in legend and culture.)


Click for Gallery of Similarly Marked Breeds Found Across the Globe






The Priory White Cattle
They were smallish cattle with black Ears and noses. They are seen above going into the side arch of the Priory."

From a local paper, November 1951

At St Osyth Priory, where an outbreak occurred last week, there was one of the few remaining herds of white Park cattle, one of the oldest breeds in this country. That has now been slaughtered, together with the small dairy herd and the stock of pigs.  The farm is attached to the convalescent home maintained at the Priory by the Shepherds Friendly Society."

Source:  Essex Farming - 1900-2000 by Peter Wormell, published by Abberton Books

Above is an article from a local UK newspaper regarding the loss of a herd of white Park cattle to Foot and Mouth disease in 1951.  Note in the photo that the cattle were polled Park cattle.  It is only in more recent writings of the likes of Alderson that we see the current White Park Cattle Society and its influential members attempting to re-write the history of the polled white Park cattle of the United Kingdom.  All the cattle, both polled and horned, were referred to simply as 'Park' cattle in England for many years. 

This image dates from 1835.  Uru refers to the original aurochs that inhabited the British Isles.  It was long  believed that the Park cattle of the UK were descendants of the ancient aurochs/urus; however, that theory has been laid to rest by scientific testing despite the claims of the horned White Park Cattle Society of the UK.  Please note that in this 1835 image you see both a horned example of the white Park cattle breed, along with a Polled example of the breed; as well, the young calf is what we consider to be under-marked today.

(1835 Elegant engraved image titled, "The White Urus or Hamilton Breed of Wild Cattle." Shows scene of an uru with two calfs. Source: www.printsoldandrare.com )


"The Ancient Irish Epic Tale Táin Bó Cúalnge" by Unknown, Translation by Joseph Dunn, 2005 Release"     A link to the full translation by Joseph Dunn.  The events of this epic tale occurred in approximately 30 B.C. and later, and clearly establish the presence of polled, white red-eared cattle in Ireland, as well as horned white cattle in Ireland.  The Tain is the oldest recorded history of the Western European world. 
     "The deeds it recounts belong to the heroic age of Ireland three hundred years before the introduction of Christianity into the island, and its spirit never ceased to remain markedly pagan. The mythology that permeates it is one of the most primitive manifestations of the personification of the natural forces which the Celts worshipped. Its historical background, social organization, chivalry, mood and thought and its heroic ideal are to a large extent, and with perhaps some pre-Aryan survivals, not only those of  the insular Celts of two thousand years ago, but also of the important and wide-spread Celtic race with whom Caesar fought and who in an earlier period had sacked Rome and made themselves feared even in Greece and Asia Minor."  J. Dunn
"While talking about the White Park cattle, as noted in the "Visitors to the Estate" section, we had a visit from The Gatekeeper Trust. They were specifically interested in looking at the castle but were suprised and very pleased to see the White Park cattle as they are representatives of the oldest breed of cattle in this country. They thought it was especially relevant as they told us that in Bury St Edmunds in medieval times, possibly even earlier and up to the 18th century, the Abbey required that a white bull, probably one of the ancient breed, be kept on field near the Abbey to be led around town as part of a fertility rite. Women would accompany the bull around the centre of town and then go to pray at the shrine of St Edmunds in the hope of conceiving children.

It is rather pleasing to know that we have brought the old white cattle breed back to the Bury St Edmunds area."

Source:  www.denhamestate.co.uk

**Note the short thick horns of this beautiful cow, rather than the curving 'gilded' horn described as well as painted in old literature and paintings of the original Park cattle that were of the horned variety.  The variation in horn type is ample evidence of the introduction of outside blood into the current herds of cattle under the auspices of the White Park Cattle Society of the UK, despite their protestations to the contrary.**


Bos primigenius in Britain: or, why do fairy cows have red ears? - Research Article - Critical Essay Folklore,  April, 2002  by Jessica Hemming    Current Article Location (link subject to change!)
. . In addition to the imaginative Irish examples, there are a couple of other mentions of these special cattle, which make them seem rather more real. The first is an often-cited passage in the thirteenth-century Iorwerth Redaction of the Welsh laws in which the sarhaed (or payment due for insult) of the king of Aberffraw is set at "a hundred cows for every cantred he has, with a red-eared [white] bull for every hundred cows," plus some very precisely-measured pieces of gold (Jenkins 1990, 5). [4]
           The Cyfnerth and Blegywryd redactions add the following: "The status of the lord of Dinefwr is also adorned with white cows, each with its head to the tail of the next, with a bull between every twenty of them, so as to fill the space from Argoel to the court of Dinefwr" (Jenkins 1990, 6).