The cattle distinguished in England as the Long Horns, are a peculiar and distinct breed. No trace now exists of their original derivation, notwithstanding their numerous advocates have claimed them to be the native breed of the British islands. Their history, however, can be traced back through the earliest agricultural records, both in England and Ireland, but in which of these countries they originated, or whether they are aboriginal to both, is not known. Certain it is, that from time immemorial they have existed in Ireland, and in some of the western districts of England. The prevailing opinion, however, seems to be that they first originated in Ireland either from accident or by foreign introduction and from thence were introduced into England.
In Ireland, there are found two distinct breeds; the one, evidently of the Middle Horns, a small, light and active animal, inhabiting principally the mountainous country; the other the Long Horns, a much larger animal, though varying as to size in different sections of the country. In the northern and more mountainous parts of the island, they are a small race, with monstrous long horns, clumsy heads, large bones, thick hides, and every way inferior to the same breed in the more southern districts. But even in these more fertile sections, no peculiar excellencies were prominent, nor were they in any way characterized, except by their long and irregular horns; and it was not until after the introduction of Bakewell’s improved breed, that the Irish cattle began to assume a new and more interesting character. Since that time, their constant changes by crossing with the Dutch, Scotch, and various improved breeds of cattle, have almost obliterated the original long horns, and substituted in their place a mongrel race of every character and description, though generally much improved.
In England, the county of Lancashire and the adjoining district of Craven, have been distinguished from the earliest periods, for this breed of cattle, so peculiarly characterized by an unbecoming and disproportionate length of horn.
"In the old breed, this horn frequently projected nearly horizontally on either aide, but as the cattle were improved, the horn assumed other directions; it either hung down so that the animal could scarcely graze, or it curved so as to threaten to meet before the muzzle, so as to prevent the beast from grazing;—or the points presented themselves against the lower jaw; or the points presented themselves against the bones of the nose and face, threatning to perforate them. In proportion as the breed became improved, the horns lengthened, and they were characteristically distinguished as the Long Horns."
They seem first to have appeared in Craven, and were early noticed on account of the cheapness with which they were kept, the superior quantity and quality of their milk, and their aptitude to fatten. As these qualities became generally known, the breed extended into the neighboring shires, and mingling with the native cattle, formed new and peculiar breeds, which characterized the several districts. Thus the Cheshire, the Derbyshire, the Nottinghamshire, the Oxfordshire, and the Wiltshire cattle, were essentially all Long Horns, but each had its peculiar features.
In the early part of the last century, a farrier and blacksmith by the name of Welby, first attempted to improve upon the qualities of the old Cravens. His success induced others to follow his example, and soon after, a gentleman by the name of Webster, of Canby, distinguished himself as a breeder. He obtained his bulls from Lancashire, and is said to have had the best stock of cattle then known. Little, however, is known of Mr. Webster, except that he established the "Canby breed," some portion of whose blood flowed in every subsequent improved Long Horn beast.
|*Utility of form embraced all the qualities resulting from peculiarity of structure, such as the increase or diminution of parts termed offal, and the development of the necessary parts for producing milk.|
Contemporary with Mr. Webster, was the celebrated Robert Bakewell. He was born at Dishley in the county of Leicestershire in 1725. He inherited a large estate from his father, and was a practical farmer as well as a man of education. "Having remarked that domestic animals in general produced others possessing qualities nearly similar to their own, he conceived that he had only to select from the most valuable breeds, such as promised to return the greatest possible emolument to the breeder, and that he should be able by careful attention to their progressive improvement, to produce a breed whence he could derive n maximum of advantage." His avowed object was fourfold; beauty and utility* of form, quality of the flesh, and a propensity to fatten. He also conceived that these objects might be better obtained by uniting selected animals of the same breed, than by a mixture of foreign breeds; or in other words, by breeding "in and in." With these views, he traveled into various parts of England to inspect the different breeds of cattle, and to select those which were best adapted to his purpose, and he finally gave the preference to the Long Horns.
He first purchased two heifers from Mr. Webster, and procured his bull from Westmoreland, in the neighborhood of Craven. To these and their progeny he confined himself, coupling them as he thought he could best increase, or establish some excellent point, or remove a faulty one, until in a few years his stock became unrivaled for the roundness of its form, the smallness of its bone, and its aptitude to fatten.
The improvement of these qualities, however, were at the expense of their milking propensities, and in proportion as they became valuable to the grazier, they were useless to the dairyman.
It is stated in the "Illustrations of Natural History," that owing to Mr. Bakewell's maxim of reducing the size of the bones, to increase the flesh, the Leicester breed ran so excessively to fat as to produce a very small quantity of eatable meat.
"They were generally found defective in weight, proportionably to bulk, while their carcasses, producing little else than fat, were sold at an inferior price to make candles instead of food.
"This great and sagacious improver, justly disgusted with the ungainly cattle around him, patriotic ally determined upon raising a more sightly and profitable breed; but unfortunately his zeal impelled him to the opposite extreme. Having painfully and at much expense raised a variety of cattle, the chief merit of which was to make fat, he has apparently laid his disciples and successors under the necessity of substituting another, that will make lean."
But whatever may have been the defects of the "Dishley breed," as established by Mr. Bakewell, his exertions gave a new and extraordinary stimulant to the agriculturists of his day. His great success induced others to make similar efforts, and a spirit of emulation was excited among the surrounding breeders, which not only resulted in great pecuniary benefit to Bakewell, but gave rise to all the successive improvement of cattle from his time to the present.
Mr. Fowler, of Oxfordshire, started a few years after him, and become quite celebrated. He obtained his stock principally from Mr. Bakewell, and his bull Shakspeare is said to have been the best stock getter of the Long Horn breed.
So great became the excitement and rage for this breed of cattle, that the bull Shakspeare was hired out for two seasons at the price of 80 guineas a season; and at a public sale of some of Mr. Fowler's cattle in 1791, the bulls ranged from $675 to $1,110, and the cows from $533 to $1,212.
Many other gentlemen rendered themselves conspicuous about that time in the breeding of Long Horns, but it is unnecessary to specify any of them at present. But notwithstanding the celebrity of the "Dishley breed," and the great amount of wealth and talent which were embarked in their cultivation, it is now entirely run out as an improved breed, and what is extraordinary, there is not at this moment a single improved Long Horn upon the old Dishley farm.
"What is now become of this improved Long Horn breed? Where is it to be found? It was a bold and successful experiment. It seemed for a while to answer the most sanguine expectations of these scientific and spirited breeders. In the districts in which the experiments were carried on, it established a breed of cattle equaled by few, and excelled by none but the Herefords. It enabled the Long Horns to contend, and often successfully, with the heaviest and best of the Middle Horns. It did more: it improved the whole breed of Long Horns. The Lancashire, the Derbyshire, the Staffordshire cattle became, and still are, an improved race; they got rid of a portion of their coarse bone. They began to gain flesh and fat on the more profitable points; they acquired an earlier maturity, and the process of improvement not being carried too far, the very dairy cattle obtained a disposition to convert their aliment into milk, while milk was wanted, and after that, to use the same nutriment for the accumulation of flesh and fat. The midland counties will always associate a feeling of respect and gratitude with the name of Bakewell. The Irish breeders owe every thing to the Dishley breed.
"But what has become of Bakewell's improved Long Horn breed? The principle upon which he seemed to act, breeding so completely "in and in," was a novel, a bold and a successful one. Some of the cattle to which we have referred, were very extraordinary illustrations, not only of the harmlessness, but the manifest advantage of such a system; but he had a large stock on which to work; and no one knew his occasional deviations from this rule, nor his skillful interpositions of remoter affinities when he thought it desirable.
"The truth of the matter is, that the master spirits of that day had no sooner disappeared, than the character of this breed began imperceptibly to change. It had acquired a delicacy of constitution inconsistent with common management and keep; it began slowly, but undeniably, to deteriorate. Many of them had been bred to that degree of refinement, that the propagation of the species was not always certain."
I shall continue the subject of Long Horns in my next number. QUERCUS.
In my last number I noticed the rise, progress and extinction of the Bakewellian breed of Long Horns. It is not surprising that this improvement should eventually degenerate to its original Standard, but it was not to have been expected that a breed so celebrated should so soon have become extinct. It can only be accounted for upon the system of breeding " in and in," which seems ever to have been so repugnant to the laws of nature, as to forbid the hope of producing any permanent benefit, by its adoption. But w have already seen, that these efforts were not without their real benefits. Aside from the general impulse given to agricultural improvements, they established the fact, that almost any breed of animals may be improved, and nearly perfected, by careful selection and judicious breeding.
The above cut is an accurate representation of the true Dishley breed, and was taken from a bull in the possession of Mr. Bakewell's nephew and successor. Their characteristic points were as follows:
"The forend long, but light to a degree of elegance: the neck thin, the chap clean, the head lone and tapering. The eye large, bright and prominent. The horns vary as to sex; those of the bull are comparatively short, from fifteen inches to two feet; those of the oxen are extremely large, being from two and a half to three and a half feet long; those of the cows nearly as long, but much finer, and tapering to delicately fine points. Most of them hang downward by the cheeks, and if well turned, shoot forward at the points.
"The shoulders thin as to bone, but thickly covered with flesh. The girth small, compared with the Short Horns; the chine remarkably full when fat; the loin broad, and the hip remarkably wide and protuberant The quarters long and level; the round bones small; but the thighs in general fleshy, and the legs small and clean. The carcase nearly cylindrical; the ribs standing out full from the spine, and the belly small. The hide of middle thickness, and loose. The fattening quality good, the flesh excellent, and the bone and offal small. Their early maturity had gained a year, and though not quite as heavy, the diminution of weight was more than compensated by increased excellence of meat. As dairy stock they degenerated; and as beasts of draught their form rendered them unfit."
But no circumstance seemed to have so direct and visible an effect in depressing the Long Horns, as the introduction of the improved Short Horns in the counties of Westmoreland, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, the Long Horns still exist in tolerable purity; but the Short Horns are fast undermining them even there, in their native districts. Crosses of all descriptions, however, abound; but one between the Long Horns and the Durhams is considered most valuable. This cross, though excellent, it is difficult to perpetuate, for in three or four generations they become again Long Horns, without their original good qualities. The dairy fanners therefore in these districts usually prefer the Long Horns; or if mixed with the Short Horns, to have the old blood predominate.
"Within the last few years, the farmers in these districts, becoming jealous of the superiority of Short Horns, have endeavored, and with great success, to renovate the Long Horn breed. It is an object worthy of their attention, for although as regards the quantity of milk, the Long Horns must ultimately be superseded by one description of Short Horn cattle, and in early maturity by another, yet it is too valuable a breed to be lost, or to be much deteriorated."
In Derbyshire and Cheshire, the Long Horn breed originally prevailed, though somewhat modified. The Cheshire breed, though chiefly Long Horns, contains a mixture of Middle Horns, Short Horns, Welch, Scotch, and Irish, and from his strange compound came the celebrated dairy cow, which has produced such fine cheese. She was rather a small, quaint and ill-shaped animal, and yet possessed a large thin skinned bag, and swelling milk veins.
It is remarkable that in Leicester, where the Long Horns had been brought to their highest perfection, they should have been so soon supplanted by any breed, however superior. But so it is, the breed has almost disappeared
"Where a few Long Horns do linger, the improved Dishleys are gone. For grazing and for early maturity, the Long Horns must yield to the Durhams, and it is only their adaptation to certain localities, which enables them to sustain themselves at all."
The Long Horns, also, with varied success, penetrated into Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and all along the southern shore of England. In most of these districts, they still continue more or less pure, but not as the prevailing breed. Many gentlemen are endeavoring to preserve them from extinction, and it is to be hoped they may yet be reinstated in their former pre-eminence. In Staffordshire, Lord Bagot still retains the Long Horns in their purest state, and towards the north of the county they continue to maintain their ground. The old Stafford cattle were a somewhat coarse kind of Long Horns, of the middle size, of various colors and with no great aptitude to fatten, but excellent for the dairy. A few of them are yet to be seen in the possession of the small farmers. The first attempt at improving them, was by the introduction of the Dishley breed, and the crossing was carried lo a considerable extent. In process of time, the Staffordshires became an exceedingly valuable breed, and so continue, and are now greatly prized in the neighboring counties.
In Warwickshire and Oxfordshire, the residences of Mr. Webster and Mr. Fowler, the Long Horns continued to contest the ground against the Durhams, the Devons, and the Herefords, but with poor success. Some of the breed still exist there, and the most valuable dairy breed is a mixture of the Long and Short Horns.
Although the Long Horns, as a distinct and pure breed, have become almost extinct, their blood still forms the principal ingredient in all the cattle of the midland counties, and each district is characterized by a breed peculiar to itself. All however are essentially Long Horns, though it is to be feared that the rapid extension of the Short Horns and Devons, will ultimately drive them from the country.
As a distinct breed, I do not know that the Long Horns are cultivated at all in the United States. During the time of the Bakewellian excitement, a few were introduced into the country, but soon became merged in our native cattle. In the early settlement of the country, it is also probable that many of this breed were brought over by the first settlers, as many relics of the breed still remain in Massachusetts and Connecticut. In Virginia, some of the Long Horns were early introduced, and it is said, though I do not know with what truth, that General Washington bestowed some attention upon their cultivation.
In contemplating the history of this breed of cattle, several reflections present themselves to our view. First, the original and native character of the breed. As a race, they were remarkable for no peculiar excellencies. Some were good, otbers bad, while the great mass were of a middle character, exciting neither observation nor remark.
Second, their astonishing improvement, and the high celebrity they attained under the Bakewellian system of management. It is evident this improvement was the result of careful selection in the first place, and of judicious connections afterwards, among the best of their produce. High feeding, also, formed an essential part of the plan of operations, and we have no reason to suppose that any betterment could have occurred, without it. Third, their rapid degeneration as an improved breed, after they had attained their maximum of excellence. Hardly a trace now retrains of the true Dishley breed, though the Long Horns have been, and still arc, bred by some agriculturists with much success.
With these facts in view, we are irresistibly led to the conclusion, that the same process applied to almost any bread of cattle, will produce similar results. The same care in selection, the same expense and labor in breeding "in and in," and the same luxuriance of feeding, would doubtless effect an equal renovation in any of our own native breeds; but if the result of all such labor and expense must only be to degenerate again to their original character, the adoption of such a system in this country, would be, to say the least, of doubtful expediency.
But whatever objections may be made to the Bakewellian system, as applied to the formation of a particular breed, it is abundantly evident from the foregoing statements, and will appear still more so in the history of the other breeds which follow, that paramount advantages have been obtained by judicious selections and breeding, and that it is to a scientific and assiduous attention to these particulars, that the world is now, and always must be, indebted for any improvement in domestic animals. QUERCUS.