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White Park Cattle

I was canoeing along the Stour in Dorset a couple of weeks ago. It is like dipping into a private piece of paradise. In three hours I saw no one. My companions were egrets, mandarin and mallard ducks, shy dapchicks, coots and morehens - and sheep and cattle coming down to graze by the river's edge. Trees has fallen over the river in some parts and getting past was a challenge. After an hour the river widened and slowed into a big loop as it went through parkland with a herd of what I thought were Frisian cows who were curious about this intruder paddling below them. As I drew alongside there he was - an unquestioned aristocrat amongst his harem - a White Park bull. 

 

The lineage of White Park cattle goes back into the mists of time. These are Druidic cattle that predate the Romans - the oldest breed in the world. The reason they have this known lineage is that the herds were emparked - kept on their own in the parks of some of the great houses of England and Wales. One such, the Chillingham herd in Northumberland, have never had other White Park genes introduced and have become a subbreed of their own and quite a bit smaller than their distant cousins. They live wild on the hill and are known to be dangerous. So much are they part of the British DNA that Churchill ordered a pair of White Park to be shipped to the US in the darkest days of the war to ensure their survival. There is now a substantial herd in America decended from these refugees. 

At one point they were an endangered breed getting down to only 200 in the world. Now they are safe and prized for their marbled beef and the beauty of their white coats, black noses and long horns as they decorate the views of some lucky enthusiasts. I am plotting some at home. How wonderful they would look with the sun setting over Glastonbury Tor behind them.....
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