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CHARACTERISTICS OF AYRSHIRE CATTLE/
BY SANFORD HOWARD.
The leading cattle-breeders of Britain have of late years, for the most pairt, aimed to establish in their stock some particular property in a high degree—beef or milk, according to circumstances, being the leading object. Hence it has occurred that British cattle have latterly been classed under the heads of "beef breeds" and "milk breeds." Prominent among the latter is the Ayrshire breed, which originated in the county of Ayr, Scotland, and within the last fifty years has been disseminated over every part of that country -where dairying is much practiced.
The breed has also been established in the north of Ireland, forming in several counties the leading stock. A great number of the cows are annually taken into various districts of England, while in several countries of continental Europe the breed has been introduced, and is propagated with care.
It has also been introduced into the United States and the British provinces of North America, and, at the present time, is probably more extensively kept as a dairy breed than any other in the world.
Importations of Ayrshire cattle into this country were made upwards of twenty years ago, but the animals were neither numerous nor generally in the hands of persons who took much pains to increase them. It was not, therefore, until a comparatively late day that the Ayrshires were much known here, or that specimens were sufficiently numerous to indicate the permanent establishment of the breed in this country.
*Erom t&Q Report of tno Commissioner of Agriculture for 3863.
A few remarks in regard to the origin of this valuable breed of cattle, in connection with their comparative value for dairy purposes, may not be out of place.
It is evident that the modern Ayrshire breed presents a wide contrast to that which occupied the western portion of Scotland many years ago.
Aiton, in his "Dairy Husbandry," speaks of the cattle which occupied Ayrshire fifty years before the time when he wrote (1806) as follows: "The cows kept in the districts of Kyle and Cunningham (districts of Ayrshire) were of a diminutive size, ill-fed, ill-shaped, and yielded but a scanty return in milk; they were mostly of a black color, with stripes of white along the chine or ridge of their backs, about their flanks, and on their faces; their horns were high and crooked; their pile [hair] was coarse and open, and few of them yielded more than three or four Scotch pints [six to eight wine quarts] of milk a day.**
A comparison of these points with those presented by the present breed of Ayrshire cattle renders probable the conclu«ion of Youatt, that the present stock could not have arisen entirely from the old. It follows, therefore, that the modern breed, like various other valuable breeds of domestic animals, originated in crossing. The question as to the breeds from which it was derived will be briefly considered.
Various accounts represent that the Earl of Marchmont, some time between 1724 and 1740, introduced to his estates in Berwickshire some cattle, conjectured (their history was not positively known) to be of the Holderness or Tees water breed, and that not long afterwards some of the stock was carried to estates belonging to the sam« nobleman in that part of Ayrshire called Kyle.
But it is not improbable that the chief nucleus of the improved breed was the "Dunlop stock," so-called, which appears to have been possessed by a distinguished family by the name of Dunlop, in the Cunningham district of Ayrshire, as early as 1780. This stock was derived, at least in part, from animals imported from Holland.
The Dunlop cows soon became noted. Kawlin, (as quoted by Youatt,) who wrote in 1794, speaking of the cattle of Ayrshire, says: "They havo another breed, called the Dunlop, which are allowed to be the best race for yielding milk in Great Britain or Ireland, not only for large quantities, but also for richness and quality.5' This, though perhaps extravagant praise, shows that the stock possessed remarkable properties at that early day. It was, indeed, held in great esteem still earlier. In Youatt's "Treatise" it is mentioned, when speaking of the cattle of Dumfriesshire, that the poet Burns, when he occupied a farm near the city of Dumfries, not content with the Galloway breed, introduced some of the west country cows, which he thought would produce more milk. In the poet's published correspondence allusion is made, in a letter dated November 13, 1T88, to a heifer which had been presented to him by the proprietor of Dunlop House, as "the finest quey in Ayrshire/' Mrs. Dunlop, it will be recollected, was a special friend and correspondent of the poet.
As a further explanation of the preference given by Burns for the "west country cows," it may be mentioned that the writer, when visiting Scotland for the purchase of Ayrshire cattle in the year 1858, had several interviews with the poet's sister, the late Mrs. Begg, of Ayr, in one of which she stated that her brother, during his occupancy of the farm of Ellisland, near Dumfries, "kept a dairy and made considerable of cheese." His efforts to procure the Ayrshire cows show that they had, even at that time, a high reputation for this object. Colonel Le Couteur, in a paper on the Jersey or Alderney cow, published in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, refers to a statement by Quayle, that the Ayrshire was a cross of the Short-horn and Alderney, and adds, himself, that "there is considerable affinity between the two breeds"—meaning the Ayrshire and Alderney.
Bawlin also says, in reference to the Ayrshire breed: "It is said to be a mixture by bulls brought from the Island of Alderney with their own, or the old race of cows."