Welsh Black cattle - black gold from the Welsh hills


Welsh Black cattle - black gold from the Welsh hills

The Welsh Black breed of cattle is one of the oldest in Britain, having inhabited the hills of Wales since pre-Roman and pre-Christian times. It is Wales' only native breed of cattle.

They were the ancient Briton’s most prized possessions when they retreated west from the invading Saxon.

As the name suggests, the cattle are naturally black. They generally have white horns with black tips, but these may be removed, and there are also naturally hornless (polled) strains. Red individuals occur occasionally – red and other colours were more common in the past. Welsh Black cattle are on the list of endangered native breeds in Wales.

As with most true native breeds, the origins of the Welsh Black are lost in time. There is evidence that the breed, or its forerunners, existed in the Roman period.

The cattle were often used as currency, giving rise to the description ‘the black gold from the Welsh hills’. Drovers would herd the cattle for weeks to sell at English markets and return to Wales with large amounts of money, making them the target of bandits and highwaymen. This threat of robbery prompted the formation of the ‘Bank of the Black Ox’. This bank persisted until 1909, when it was absorbed into Lloyds Bank.

Until the early 1970s the Welsh Black was regarded as a dual purpose breed for both dairy and beef production. There were two distinctive strains of the breed, the stocky north Wales beef type and the more dairy-like south Wales, or Castlemartin, animal. The Welsh Black animal of the present day combines the best of both - a hardy breed providing high quality meat and milk.

Further reading

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