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The Hereford






Category: History and Breeds

These cattle derive their name from a county in the western part of
England. Their general characteristics are a white face, sometimes
mottled; white throat, the white generally extending back on the neck,
and sometimes, though rarely, still further along on the back. The color
of the rest of the body is red, generally dark, but sometimes light.
Eighty years ago the best Hereford cattle were mottled or roan all over;
and some of the best herds, down to a comparatively recent period, were
either all mottled, or had the mottled or speckled face.

The expression of the face is mild and lively; the forehead open, broad,
and large; the eyes bright and full of vivacity; the horns glossy,
slender and spreading; the head small, though larger than, and not quite
so clear as, that of the Devons; the lower jaw fine; neck long and
slender; chest deep; breast-bone large, prominent, and very muscular;
the shoulder-blade light; shoulder full and soft; brisket and loins
large; hips well developed, and on a level with the chine; hind quarters
long and well filled in; buttocks on a level with the back, neither
falling off nor raised above the hind quarters; tail slender, well set
on; hair fine and soft; body round and full; carcass deep and well
formed, or cylindrical; bone small; thigh short and well made; legs
short and straight, and slender below the knee; as handlers very
excellent, especially mellow to the touch on the back, the shoulder, and
along the sides, the skin being soft, flexible, of medium thickness,
rolling on the neck and the hips; hair bright; face almost bare, which
is characteristic of pure Herefords.

They belong to the middle horned division of the cattle of Great
Britain, to which they are indigenous, and have been improved within the
last century by careful selections.

Hereford oxen are excellent animals, less active but stronger than the
Devons, and very free and docile. The demand for Herefords for beef
prevents their being much used for work in their native county, and the
farmers there generally use horses instead of oxen.

It is generally conceded that the qualities in which Herefords stand
pre-eminent among the middle-sized breeds are in the production of oxen
and their superiority of flesh. On these points there is little chance
of their being excelled. It should, however, be borne in mind that the
best oxen are not produced from the largest cows; nor is a superior
quality of flesh, such as is considered very soft to the touch, with
thin skin. It is the union of these two qualities which often
characterizes the short horns; but Hereford breeders--as a recent writer
remarks--should endeavor to maintain a higher standard of
excellence--that for which the best of the breed have always been
esteemed--a moderately thick, mellow hide, with a well apportioned
combination of softness with elasticity. A sufficiency of hair is also
desirable, and if accompanied with a disposition to curl moderately, it
is more in esteem; but that which has a harsh and wiry feel is
objectionable.

In point of symmetry and beauty of form, the well bred Herefords may be
classed with the improved short horns, though they arrive somewhat more
slowly at maturity, and never attain such weight. Like the improved
short horns, they are chiefly bred for beef, and their beef is of the
best quality in the English markets, commanding the highest price of
any, except perhaps, the West Highlanders. The short horn produces more
beef at the same age than the Hereford, but consumes more food in
proportion.

The Herefords are far less generally spread over England than the
improved short horns. They have seldom been bred for milk, as some
families of the latter have; and it is not very unusual to find
pure-bred cows incapable of supplying milk sufficient to nourish their
calves. They have been imported to this country to some extent, and
several fine herds exist in different sections; the earliest
importations being those of Henry Clay, of Kentucky, in 1817.

The want of care and attention to the udder, soon after calving,
especially if the cow be on luxuriant grass, often injures her milking
properties exceedingly. The practice in the county of Hereford has
generally been to let the calves suckle from four to six months, and
bull calves often run eight months with the cow. But their dairy
qualities are perhaps as good as those of any cattle whose fattening
properties have been so carefully developed; and, though it is probable
that they could be bred for milk with proper care and attention, yet, as
this change would be at the expense of other qualities equally valuable,
it would evidently be wiser to resort to other stock for the dairy.





Next: The North Devons

Previous: The Dutch



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