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The Ancient Breed

History photo

The Welsh Black breed of cattle is one of the oldest in Britain, having inhabited the hills of Wales since pre-Roman and pre-Christian times. They were the ancient Briton’s most prized possessions when they retreated west from the invading Saxons.

As with most true native breeds, the origins of the Welsh Black are somewhat clouded. There is evidence that the breed, or its forerunners, existed in Roman times and certainly black cattle have been bred in Wales for over 1,000 years.

The cattle were often used as currency, giving rise to the description ‘the black gold from the Welsh hills’. Drovers would herd the cattle for weeks to sell at English markets and return to Wales with large amounts of money, making them the target of bandits and highwaymen. This threat of robbery prompted the formation of the ‘Bank of the Black Ox’ which evolved into Lloyds Bank.

Until the early 1970s the Welsh Black was regarded as a dual purpose breed for both dairy and beef production. There were two distinctive strains of the breed, the stocky north Wales beef type and the more dairy-like south Wales, or Castlemartin, animal. The Welsh Black animal of the present day combines the best of both.

The net result is a modern Welsh Black breed offering cattle that meet the needs of modern farming, with medium sized suckler dams that are easy to manage and capable of rearing strong pure or cross-bred calves that will suit both traditional and intensive beef finishing systems.