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THE HEREFORD BREED OF CATTLE:
ITS HISTORY AND CHARACTERISTICS.
Among the various breeds of cattle which are held in high estimation at the present day, none have had a longer career of fame than the Hereford. It takes its name from the county of Hereford, in England. In the adopted classification of British cattle, it belongs to the Middle-Horns, which are admitted to be of untraceable antiquity. Whether they were brought to the “ Islands of the Northern Sea,” by some of the races of men which settled there before the historic period, or whether the early inhabitants found them there in a state of natural liberty, are questions that cannot be answered. How long the Herefords have possessed the peculiar traits or features which now characterise them as a breed; it is impossible to say. There is evidence that they were called by their present name more than two hundred years ago, but the authorities of those days are silent as to the color and other special points of the stock.
There is no doubt, however, that the breed has undergone considerable change since the time of the earliest notices of it that have come down to us. It is not improbable that the color has been changed. People who lived to within a late period, stated that they had seen persons who remembered the introduction of the present popular white face; but as to the way in which it came, accounts do not entirely agree. But it should be borne in mind that color is not one of the strongest and most persistent characteristics of animals; and hence it is by no means necessary to suppose that changes of color in the Herefords were the result of the introduction of alien blood. Even among wild animals, color is not absolutely invariable. The Bison and the Musk ox are the only representatives of the Ox Tribe belonging, naturally, to America. It is the testimony of persons who are familiar with the former, as he appears on our western plains, that though the mass of them are black, or brownish-black, white ones are sometimes seen. If these white animals breed, as they probably do, the general tendencies of the race are toward the opposite color, so that any individual peculiarities which appear, are soon lost. If the animals were under man's control, so that males and females possessing the rare color could be placed by themselves, there is reason to suppose that in the course of several generations a white variety or breed might be produced. We know that white deer are sometimes found, and that among the smaller animals, -as squirrels, mice, &c., and also in birds, as crows, blackbirds, rbbins, &c., this color appears. Among the wild cattle confined in parks in England and Scotland, which are generally white, there are sometimes produced spotted and even black calves, but they are not allowed to live long. Among the Highland cattle of Scotland, whose prevailing color is black, there are now and then white ones.
From what is called albinage, full-blood African men and women are sometimes perfectly white. Whether some of the changes above referred to are due to this principle or not, we have examples both in the human family and in the lower animals, showing that the peculiarities may be perpetuated by uniting individuals of similar traits and tendencies. In like manner certain colors or markings in the Hereford and other breeds of cattle may have been, in a degree, fixed or established. We know that in a state of domestication, the tendency of animals to vary in color is much stronger than in a wild state. Wild birds, as turkeys and ducks, when bred for generations as tamed poultry, frequently assume colors varying greatly from the original ones; and it has been demonstrated that by selecting specimens of any particular color, and breed
ing from them, and thus continuing to select and breed from the progeny, the desired color may be increased.
It has already been remarked that it is impossible to tell what was the original color of the Hereford cattle. The first systematic attempt to improve them, of which we have any record, was made by Benjamin Tomkins, of Wellington, near Hereford, who, in the year 1766, purchased two cows as the foundation of his herd, which became widely celebrated for many years, and to which nearly all the best Herefords of the present day are more or less related. Mr. Tomkins was a contemporary of Robert Bakewell, who, even at the early period mentioned, had become noted as a breeder of domestic animals; and it has been said that the Hereford cattle-breeder took lessons from the great improver of the Long-horns, which were serviceable to him at the commencement of business. At any rate, the first selections of stock by these eminent breeders, appear to have been made on a similar principle. Bakewell selected his first females--a couple of heifers—from a stock which first attracted attention from its tendency to fatten, and Tomkins, according to the current belief in the neighborhood where he lived, purchased his first two cows from a mechanic, in whose hands they had been much admired on account of their flesh-forming propensities. Mr. Eyton, the founder of the Hereford Herd-Book, was informed by a daughter of Mr. Tomkins, that one of the cows was a gray, and the other a dark red, with a spotted face; that he called the former Pigeon, and the latter Mottle. Mr. Eyton thought that these two cows and their progeny were for a while crossed with the best selected herds in the neighborhood, but that during the latter part of Mr. Tomkins's life he used none but bulls bred by himself, and did not cross with any other stocks. He appears to have kept up a distinction in the descendants of the two cows mentioned --the Pigeon branch and the Mottle branch being frequently referred to.
It is proper to remark here, that the colors possessed by these branches or families of Herefords have always belonged to the