The Wild White Cattle of Chillingham


MT-NUGONG-BLOG111122The Wild White Cattle of Chillingham

The Wild White Cattle of Chillingham The Wild White Cattle of Chillingham
There is an epic grandeur in the stories of great herds of wild cattle roaming across Europe as the American Bison roamed across the land undominated by humans. As the pressure of human population grew the area occupied by the wild auriches diminished. When the Romans invaded Briton they noted that there were many cattle there already. The Celtic ox had become a small deer like creature that had adapted well to human domestication.


In the time of Edward the Confessor 1042 there were great forests that grew across much of the mountainous areas of Briton. In these areas wild cattle thrived with deer and boar pigs, easily evading humans by hiding amongst the rocky outcrops and hidden glens.


As the land became cleared and agriculture developed the wild places where undomesticated cattle could hide diminished. In the Thirteenth century Barons were given rights to close off forests for hunting preserves. At this time peasants were given limited access to the land. In the 17th and 18th century the aristocracy held a passion for hunting and great tracts of land was held in reserve for the sport. Cattle were hunted like deer with packs of dogs. When the dogs would chase the cattle out of their hiding spots they were shot at by gentlemen on horseback or in the rougher country they were stalked on foot as one might hunt deer.

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Walter Scot wrote of

Through the huge oaks of Evandale

Whose limbs a thousand years have worn

What sullen roar comes down the gale

And drowns the hunters horn?


Mightiest of all the beasts of chase

That roam in woody Caledon

Crashing the forest in his race

The Mountain Bull comes thundering on

The cattle in these estates lived in a semi wild state for many generations. Rev John Storer recognised the significance of these cattle as a glimpse of the past. He wrote about their characteristics and helped to fuel the romantic notion of the wild park cattle. Some of the wild park herds ring through histories halls of cattle fame such as Ardrossan, in Scotland, Samford and Blicking Hall in England to name a few. The last of the Park herds in existence today is known as the wild white cattle of Chillingham.


The wild or aboriginal cattle of Britain were white with red ears. Darwin him self wrote to the Earl of Tankerville the owner of the Chillingham estate congratulating him on preserving the genetics of these ancient cattle.  Whist the cattle may have been kept in a wild state there was still considerable influence by humans. Any calves born that were not white were culled early from the herd thus preserving a “type”.

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