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Early characteristics of the northern polls—Two varieties in Buchan– The effect of early crosses with Shorthorns—The colour of the breed —“Scurs.”—Shapes, size, and symmetry—Increase in size—General improvement in form, &c.—Comparison of polled and Shorthorns— Full description of a typical polled animal–Comparison with Galloways—The breed's surpassing beef-properties—Excellent quality of its beef – High value of polled crosses—Early maturing — Weights and prices of polled oxen—Milking-properties—Wide and growing reputation of the breed–Great increase in value.
THE reader will already have obtained glimpses of the chief characteristics of the native polled cattle of Angus and Aberdeen. Youatt's testimony to the early development of rapidly fattening-properties in the Angus doddies has been quoted. We have also indicated the very high character given by the Messrs Williamson, the chief Aberdeenshire cattle-dealers and cattle-breeders of eighty years ago, to the beef-producing and paying qualities of the Buchan humlies as far back as 1810. It would seem that formerly there were two types of polled cattle in Buchan. In a communication addressed to us, Mr William Forbes, Newark Brick-Work, Ellon, whose grandfather was a farmer in Buchan, and bred polled cattle, says: “The cattle in Buchan about half a century ago and earlier might be said to have consisted of horned and polled black cattle in about equal propor
ave obtained glimp" of the e polled cattle of Ango to the early develo in the Angus o We have also indicated the Yeo o the Messrs Williamsoll, o, lshire cattle-dealers and also of to the beef-producing and o Q
o humlies as far back as 1810. e two types of ld seem that formerly there were addressed o in Buchan. In a como rk, Ellon, . William Forbes, Newark lo". indfather was a farmer III Bucha int half a le, says: " The cattle in Buchan d e consiste o earlier might be said to *: propor and polled black cattle in about eq
ler will already have racteristics of the nati" roleen. Youatt's testimony rapidly fattening-properties quoted. given by
tions. The polled cattle were of two classes, one large and another small. I knew the small kind well. They were rather puny creatures, always thin in flesh, and very badly used. They were pre-eminently the crofter's cow, as they were able to live through the winter on the straw of oats and bere, and water, if necessary. Of the larger portion of the cattle, about one-half were jet black, excepting the udder, which was usually white, and often the whole underline was white. They could not stand starvation so well as the small polls, but with better treatment they gave a heavier yield of milk. When creamed, however, their milk was thinner than that from the small cows. A considerable portion of the cattle were largesized, well-fleshed brindled polls; and these were the finest-looking animals in Buchan. When well fed, they had a short glossy coat of hair; some were good milkers, but some went to flesh and fat instead of milk. A few were of a dull red colour, but they were not so high in favour as the brindled cattle. The polled cattle were the dairy stock. The butter they produced was very fine in summer and autumn, but hard and white in winter. The establishing of a beef trade with England, and the introduction of Shorthorn bulls and turnip husbandry, opened up a new era for Buchan. The native cattle fattened well, and money was made by doing so. Shorthorn bulls were introduced, and put to all kinds of cows. Often when a Shorthorn bull was mated with a small polled cow, the produce was a black poll of the finest character—immensely superior to either of the parents. When a heifer of this stamp was again put to a good Shorthorn bull, the result was quite as fine a black poll, of still larger size. If the produce were also a heifer, and mated with a pure Shorthorn bull, the produce was still a poll, yet larger in size, but bluish-grey in colour. If a heifer again, and put to a Shorthorn bull, the produce was once more a grey poll, probably lighter in colour. When
this form of crossing was continued further, Shorthorn col-
rm of crossing was continued further, Shorthorn Col. appeared, sometimes with scurs, but oftener with the it short horns of the male parent. I observed this iment tried in several cases, with exactly tle SãIIlê With the larger polls with white underlines the and colour of the Shorthorn bull were earlier o d to the produce, generally at the second o as I therefore look ** o o With(\l as the pure original Buchan hu". . . points, Mr Alexande o o: tr to Colonel Ferguson of Pitfour, Ale: €ell o far back as I can wo – were two kinds of polled catt € lll i so Cairngall, near Longside o,o ... I used to see alwo grazing int o olls ale. COWS t the jet black the present race "P dders were n0 ish tinge along the back, white l s had a brownish "8 o the underline, Clean net a stripe of white along harp at the shoulders long bodies, rather p louarters—so heads, c Te 111 the hind qua at the flank, and *. the cow [Pride of Also 'all remember, not o o at the Tillyfour disper. 9th 3253] M. * other type of polled to or 270 guino.
r e 1. She was J on the loins, nary
ling along with her nose quite near the ground. Both types were famed for their milking qualities, and especially their fine-flavoured butter.” Mr James Smith, Burnshangie, writing of the polled cattle formerly in Buchan, says: “On some of the larger farms in this neighbourhood, the markings of the different families or stocks would seem to have been very distinct and preserved. They went by the names of the different farms on which they were bred. Thus, the Strichen breed were mostly brindled; while at Gowanfold, in Rathen, there was a belted race—black animals with a white belt round their waist. There was also a ‘rigget' race, or black with a white ridge along the back. The most general sorts, however, were black, or black with a little white below, and about the legs, a white udder being regarded as the sign of a good milker. There was also another very good sort, black with a brown back. The cows—of course I am speaking of the better sorts—were deep, wide, roomy animals, a necessary feature; and their milking-properties, which were good, were carefully cultivated. I recollect well the Skillymarno polled stock. They were black with white udder, and generally a white spot in the face. Some of them came as a ‘tocher' [marriage dowry] with Skillymarno's daughter, on her marriage to the tenant of the next farm to my father's. Here they were several times crossed with good Shorthorn bulls; but although they became blue in colour, no scurs were ever seen upon them. I happened to mention this to one of the Messrs Cruickshank of Sittyton, who remarked that he could quite understand it, for they had obtained a polled cow from the late Mr John Hutchinson of Monyruy; and after her progeny had been crossed for five generations with Shorthorn bulls, neither horns nor scurs appeared. The nearest approach to the best types of our old Buchan cows that I can recollect seeing is old “Charlotte of Fyvie,’ purchased by Lord Southesk at the disper
sion sale at Fyvie in 1881. Mr Auld's 270-guinea cow [Pride of Aberdeen 9th 3253] is also a good deal of the same stamp.” Formerly, both in Angus and Aberdeen, the breed embraced a variety of colours as well as difference in size. Black, with some white spots on the underline, was the prevailing colour. Some were brindled — dark-red and black stripes alternately; others were red; others brown; and a few what Youatt called “silver-coloured yellow.” But since systematic improvement was commenced in thorough earnest, all shades of colour excepting black have been at a discount, indeed almost entirely “dishonoured.” Now the cry is, “black and all black.” It is not easy, however, to wholly obliterate features that have at any time been characteristic of a race of stock; and even in the “best regulated families” a “reversion”. to one or other of these unpopular shades of colour still occasionally displays itself. A shade of brown is not rejected, and not a few of the best-looking and most highly priced animals of recent years have had some white about the underline, chiefly around the udder. Red or brindled, however, are wholly inadmissible; and when animals of these shades do appear, they are not bred from. In most herds one or two red calves have appeared, but a brindled calf is now rarely dropped. But while these colours are unpopular, it should be remembered that they do not denote impurity. They simply indicate that an ancient characteristic of the breed, which modern fancy has doomed to extinction, has in the mysterious workings of nature been able to temporarily reassert itself. And here it may be well to draw a distinction between those occasional unwelcome cases of “harking back" to discounted colours, and another deviation from the rule which now and again appears in some strains in the form of “scurs.” These “scurs” are small, rounded pieces of horn, without horn-cores, and attached loosely to the head.