A large and handsome animal with a reddish-brown coat that has a dusting of white, as if it’s been in a fight with a bag of flour. An animal with a great temperament and calves easily. The Longhorn was created and honed by Robert Bakewell in the 18th century, when he crossed a horned heifer with a Westmoorland bull to create a big breed with mighty great horns (which point in towards to end of the nose rather than up like Texan cattle). Because the Longhorn was quickly surpassed by the Shorthorn in popularity, it was never exported and so its bloodlines remain pure; it still has the distinctive white line down its back which was present in all cattle hundreds of years ago.
Originally bred to be a very large animal, the Longhorn lost its size when it fell out of popularity for a number of years, until the Rare Breeds Survival Trust highlighted its near-extinction in the 1980s. We have worked hard on our farm to restore the Longhorn to its former glory, breeding size back into the beast and working to increase our herd year on year. These large animals produce well proportioned substantial joints and cuts – the fillet can be up to 3kg – and the meat is well marbled and tastes simply stunning. We bring them into large sheds over the winter, for their own wellbeing – they’re a breed traditionally from Leicestershire where the weather is more forgiving – and in part to stop them from completely churning up the pasture with their great heft.
Originating from the moorland of Scotland, the Galloway is a real survivor, a fairly small and hardy breed which is used to fighting for every kilo of weight. They can survive on the relatively sparse but varied pickings of the moor by supplementing what little grass there is with heather, hedging and gorse, and as a result produce some of the most wonderful beef – rich and almost herbal, packed with the flavour of all the animal has eaten. They provide particularly good stewing beef for this reason. They have a distinctive long coat, which looks a little like ringlets around the face. We keep Galloways and Belted Galloways; the Galloways vary from white to reddish-brown to black, and the ‘Belties’ have a striking band of white reaching from the top of the back, around the stomach and all the way back again.
The Riggit is thought to be the original medieval breed from west coast of Scotland. Back when all cattle were fairly indistinct from each other and all had a white line down their back (Linebacks), this was the variety of Lineback which survived on the west coast of Scotland, developing the shaggy coat we now see on the Galloway. Thought to be extinct, in the 1990s two separate Galloway breeders had breeding pairs which threw a calf with a white line down its back. One thought nothing of it and the calf was reared for slaughter. The second was Anton Coker, an inspirational cattle farmer on Dartmoor, who decided to do a bit of research and found old paintings of the original Galloway area animals, which were all this line-backed breed called Riggit. Together with Coker, we are bringing this breed back, and now have around 120 Riggit cattle.
A good Shorthorn should look like “a house brick with a leg at each corner”; rectangular, stocky and with well positioned joints to hold its weight. It’s a good-sized animal but a very slow growing one, with a variable red and white coat. As the name suggests, the Shorthorn is easy to farm in number as it doesn’t present the fantastic horns of the Longhorn, and it is for this reason that it became the more popular breed for so many years. Originating from the Northeast of England, the Shorthorn is fairly hardy but wouldn’t like the highlands or exposed moorland. It produces very good beef, but doesn’t quite have the nutty richness of the Longhorn.
It was a great Shorthorn bull named Comet, owned by Charles and Robert Wilson, which was the first bull to make 1,000 guineas at the market in 1810.