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Posts from the ‘Cow Breeds’ Category

My Year of Cows 2013

I have not stopped looking at cows. Here is my selection for 2013. The first part of the year was a bit barren but soon the cows were appearing all over the place.


cow herds cow herds cow herds cow herds cow herds cow herds cow herds

cow herds

Roman Cow

Part of the underground warehouses found in Narbonne, France

cow herds

Roman Cow Narbonne France


There are a couple of painters who only paint cows – and why not

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cow herds

This is not a cow this is a rabbit

The Roundabout Cows of Burgundy

because the Burgundians take their Charolais seriously

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And The Very Fine

Traditional English Herefords

Happy New Year


The Ghosts Of the Farm


Convalescing in bed a few days ago after a nasty cold I heard some unexplained noises in the kitchen downstairs. It’s a very old house and there are often creaks and groans, as if the weight of the past is sighing through the thick stone walls. We spent so long restoring it we had plenty of time to think about the people who lived and farmed here before, imagining them treading the slabs and floorboards through the centuries. We know that at one time the two rooms downstairs, now separated by a nineteenth century panelling hallway, were just used as one room and this is where the families would have cooked and lived.

Clome oven in fireplace

Clome oven in the fireplace, used for cooking and baking.

So, we get used to living with ghosts.

 I wonder if that’s Mr. Creeper, I thought, feeling comforted, as always, by the knowledge that the farms’ most recent resident, prior to our occupation, is possibly still with us. What a good name for a ghost, I hear you say. One friend swears she has seen him, a figure by the bottom of the stairs, not unfriendly.

William Creeper was a tenant farmer who moved here in 1922 as a boy of seven. In those days the farmyard was a rocky slope, a continuation of the bedrock on which the cottage stands. We have tried to recreate this unevenness by breaking up most of the slab of concrete which covered it, allowing the wildness back in, including digging a huge hole, the pond, which fluctuates in level with the water table – it has never dried out, so that gives you an idea of all the spring lines that run down the hill. In fact we didn’t realise how wet the place was until our first autumn when it rained solidly for month and water started gushing around the sides of the house and out of the front, veritable rivers UNDERNEATH the house. Digging out the soil from the back of the house and installing a drainage pipe solved most of the problem but the pond, by accident, was what really solved it in the end. Anyway, the concrete was far more practical and I completely understand why it must have been a joy to a farmer, but we’re in it for different reasons.

The Pond

The Pond


See what happens with no concrete!

Mr. William Creeper used to have a herd of Ruby Reds (North Devons) which shrank to around to nine or ten cows as he got older and the land of the farm was gradually sold off, ending up eventually as the ten acres it is now. There are people in the village who knew him well and we have heard many stories about him. I like to think that I’m following in his footsteps with my small herd which I’m planning will eventually reach a similar number to his.

Herd of North Devon

Herd of North Devons

Right from the beginning his presence was felt very keenly. The house hadn’t been touched for years, possibly since 1922, and had no running water, rotten floors upstairs and a gaping hole in the roof of the lean to extension on the back, sending rain and wind howling into what is now the kitchen. He lived solely in the other downstairs room, while the rest of the cottage fell into disuse and ruin around him. There was an earth dunny in a little lean to on the side of the piggery.

The dunny

The dunny

There were dark stories about the owners, relatives of his, who refused to do any work on the property because they wanted to sell, hoping to force him out, the sitting tenant, by making it so uninhabitable he would have to leave. Of course this is entirely possible, but we don’t know for sure. Whatever the reason for the gradual delapidation, he stayed put.

He was eighty eight when he suddenly got ill and became very distressed at having to leave his beloved farm. However, according to the story, once in hospital he was incredibly impressed by the warmth and particularly by the bath and didn’t want to leave. Perhaps a revelation to a man who had washed every day in the farmyard in all weathers at the one and only cold tap, which was only installed in the 1980’s, before that it was the well. He died there just a couple of months later.

He was, by all accounts, rather stubbornly eccentric and loved his cows more than any thing or person. He never married, his cows were apparently the only company he required and they used to come up the front steps and into the house, as the front door was always open, whatever the month. He had abandoned cleaning long ago and when we arrived there was a tell tale area of dirt and grease beneath the door latch to his room, where he’d placed his hand so many times to open the door. We became fond of his traceries and I felt a sadness when about eight years later I finally got round to stripping the old paint off the doors, including his patch of ingrained life.

When we arrived, he had only recently left so there were lots of artefacts of his life around the place, which made him very real. He was a small man and his standard issue hospital style walking stick was propped up in a barn. We still have that. We also have the branding iron which is what farmers used in the old days before the more humane ear tags were deployed for identifying cattle. It is only the C for Creeper which remains, the W we never found, so there is a space where it should be. It is hanging by the front door, a constant reminder.

Old Branding iron by door

Branding Iron www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comBetter still, we have the prizes which he won for his cattle at the now defunct local Five Lanes and Camelford shows, which he proudly fixed to the joists in the shippen. I love to look at those.

Cattle prize 1952

Cattle Prize 1965

It doesn’t seem important whether he is a real ghost or not. It is his presence which haunts us, and there is one thing at least I do know for sure – we will never forget William Creeper and his cows.

My Year of Cows 2012

Well, as you know, I’ve got a soft spot for cows…

Traditional Hereford Cow & Calf

Traditional Hereford Cow & Calf

But when you get really interested in something you start seeing the object of your desire everywhere.

Galloways on Dartmoor

Galloways on Dartmoor

So this is my collection of 2012, roughly in chronological order, though there’s a few I took a few years ago when I started looking.

Belted Galloway

Belted Galloway on Dartmoor


Belted Galloways on Dartmoor

Belted Galloways on Dartmoor


Galloways on Dartmoor

Galloways on Dartmoor

Burgundian Charolais

Burgundian Charolais

Highland Cattle on Bodmin Moor

Highland Cattle on Bodmin Moor

Traditional Hereford Cow & Calf

Traditional Hereford Cow & Calf

North Devon Cow

North Devon Cow

Cattle on Bodmin Moor

Cattle on Bodmin Moor


Highland Cow

Highland Cow


Aberdeen Angus Bull (I think)

Aberdeen Angus Bull (I think)

Cattle on Bodmin Moor

Cattle on Bodmin Moor


Cowon Bodmin Moor


Cow in BodminMoor

Cow on Bodmin Moor

Cattle on Bodmin

Cattle on Bodmin Moor


Spanish Cows

Spanish Cows

Friesian Steer

Friesian Steer

Young steers feeding

Young steers feeding

Cow Fur

Cow Fur

Traditional Hereford Bull

And we mustn’t forget Herald, our bull

Young Hereford X Steer

And his children…not sure what the mother was…

Traditional Hereford Heifers

And saving the best til last…Belita, Mary-Rose & Lucy

What Have the Cows Been Doing This Week


Traditional Herefords Lying Down

Traditional Hereford Heifers Lying Down

Belita, Lucy, Mary-Rose


Traditional Hereford Heifers on Hedgebank


Traditional Hereford Heifers Eating Hay

It’s only fair they get some tea too

Traditional Hereford Heifers Eating Hay
We made our hay in August, this was very late but it was such a wet summer. You can find out about it here and here if you’re interested.

Moon in Autumn Sky

The moon was full



Spain – Mountain, Meadow and Plain (Spanish Cows)

Last week I was in Spain, not specifically on a cow hunt you understand…however…

Cow Warning Sign

Cow Alert

Cow Sign Salamanca

Cow Sign Salamanca

Today the sky is a sweeping wash of high cirrus clouds. It is bright and there is a slight breeze. I make sandwiches for the journey and take my coffee to the clay tiled terrace to take in the view. Goat bells jangle softly in the distance and a chorus of dogs are barking down the hillside. I can hear a rumble which may belong to heavy machinery behind the chatter and song of the birds. This house stands on hills and slopes above a wide plain. The Sierra de Gredos mountains are behind, hovering above in deep granite folds.

The plain stretches for 50km until it reaches a parallel set of mountains, now hazy and gray. It is the end of a baking hot summer and the land looks parched and dry. The reservoir, which sits in the middle of the plain, is barely more than a puddle, its exposed sandy banks telling the history of its former level.

View across Spanish Plain

Sierra de Gredos Spain www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comSierra de Gredos www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comView over Spanish Plain www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comAs I walk through the meadow, the bleached stalks of the grasses splinter and crack underfoot as crickets and grasshoppers scatter. A few days ago there was a couple of days of rain. I look closer, and beneath the parched and brittle surface a new bloom of tiny green seedlings cloaks the ochre earth.

Dry Meadow Spain

A stony track leads us into the hills and even though it is late afternoon the sun is fierce and hot on our necks and shoulders. The heat releases the sticky perfume from the swathes of Cistus which clothe the hillsides and the air is full of it, sweet and aromatic. I have been told that in May it looks like snow because of the white flowers. I imagine that scene, the papery flowers unfolding day after day, until just like snow, they melt and disappear. In amongst the Cistus are squat lavenders, blue gray leaves needle thin and the skeletal remains of their purple winged flowers standing proud above.

Track in Spain

Around here has been gradually colonised by people, pantiled roofs peeping out from between the scrub of Broom and Oak. Mixed orchards of figs, cherries, pear and pomegranate stand alongside vines and olive groves. Yesterday a neighbour came with her brother to harvest the grapes to make the wine and gave us two bursting bags of their own dried figs which they do by turning regularly in the hot summer sun.

Spanish Home Dried Figs

On our way back we stop by to say hello to the cows. I wonder if those bells bother them.

Spanish Cows

Spanish Cows

Spanish Cows

Spanish Cows

Spanish Cows

Herald – a Bull Story with September Skies

Hello, well, some of you know that we’re buying a half share in a bull, Herald   (if not, you can read about it here if you’d like). The other day I went to visit him in person for the first time with fellow bull purchasing friend T. Before we commit 100% he has to have blood tests for both TB and BVD (Bovine Virus Diarrhea) – it sounds horrible and best to test…a Hereford farmer in Wiltshire alerted us to this particular bovine problem. Which made me think that maybe we should have had ours tested too. Must get that fencing sorted…

The farm Herald is currently lodging at is on the hills above the Camel Estuary.

Camel Estuary Cornwall

We approached him in the field, accompanied by the farmer and I took some pictures…

Traditional Hereford Bull

Herald, note table like back

Traditional Hereford Bull

He was pretty unconcerned by our presence until T went a little too close and he tossed his head in an irritated way. We backed off and he continued with his munching.

I’m thinking how to convert my trepidation into respect, which is how the farmer describes their attitude towards him and implies some sort of control over your gut feelings. Hmm.

Herald was originally halter trained though he hasn’t been handled in this way for two years. His owner and the farmer think he’ll remember no problem. T has volunteered to be the leader in this enterprise – erm, shall we say there wasn’t a queue…

T’s friend J the rope man has made him a halter from rope, modelled here by a door

Cow Halter

Rather than think too much about the Herald situation, I concentrate on looking at the sky and the clouds…

Sky over Cornwall

Sky over Cornwall

Sky over Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comSky over Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comSky over Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comAnd the flowers…

PS thinking cowgirl is going offranch for about a week …so hasta luego for now (as they might say in a spaghetti western)

Dahlias in a box

Dahlias by special request

Heifer…or Heffalump?

Traditional English Herefords

Getting rounder

So, it’s nearly two months since we’ve had the heifers. The other day I noticed that they are getting a little fat. Not such a bad thing going into winter I think but Mary Rose has a rather alarmingly large belly, significantly bigger than either Lucy or Belita.

I watch her for a while. It really is quite big. Is she just a quick eater? She’s always butting Belita out of the way when the cow treats come out so there is a bit of a greedy preponderance. But nothing like Lucy who is a real bully girl, bashing the other two with her horns to get to the goodies. And she’s not anything like as huge as Mary Rose.

Traditional English Hereford

Mary Rose – even rounder?

Suddenly, a horrible thought strikes me. I hope she’s not pregnant. Thoughts race around. Is that cowly possible? I think that they can come into ‘bulling’ (season) at the earliest from 9 months and usually at around a year…but they shouldn’t be put with a bull until at least 2 years old. Ours are a year old so…

I realise I have been bumbling along at this cow business for a while. We haven’t even managed to catch them yet.

We get on the phone. I speak to J & L and ask them to come over and see what they reckon and B talks to a local fencer about quoting for making a pen in the corner of the field by the gate so that we can drive them into it and then get them into the cattle crush (this sounds worse than it is) for things like TB tests, foot trimming and scanning the uterus.

Cattle Crush

Cattle crush I bought from ebay. On the list to paint…!

Our friend H the vet comes over and has a look. She’s more of a cat and dog and guinea pig vet but she thinks it may just be a grass belly. I feel slightly reassured. It is not nice to think of a calf growing inside Mary Rose she is too young and small to give birth and would have to have a C section. Today I’ve emailed the previous owners to ask if there is any chance that she could have been with a bull.

I’m hoping it’s just a scare and that she’s just turned from Heifer to Heffalump on all that lovely grass.

Traditional English Hereford Heifer

They are definitely growing. Here is Belita. She is now 1yr old.


ListHaving reached number ten, I was thinking that it might have been a mistake to number the posts on this blog. As my friend T pointed out, by the time it gets into the 100’s it might be a bit weird – and tedious. Sorry, I think it’s probably my obsession with lists. I have a day list, and then then there’s the Long List….

it seemed like a good idea at the time

Which is, I hope, not what I am going to say after having just purchased a half share in a BULL

Traditional English Hereford Bull

Herald when he was young – much bigger now. That cow seems to like him.

More like this….

It all became a bit of a dilemma. Being a fairly rare breed there are not a huge amount of herds around. The bulls seem to be everywhere around the country apart from the south west. A fact I probably should have taken into consideration more before going ahead with the Traditional English Hereford. But I was so taken with them, their lovely colour and sweet temperaments. Usually, the idea is to borrow or rent a bull to get your cows in calf and then send him back whence he came. However, as they are so far away the costs of transportation are enormous. Of course there is always AI (Artificial Insemination) but I have gone off this idea.

Pedigree Hereford Certificate

Heralds pedigree certificate. He comes fro the Llandinabo line which is good apparently.

T & N are in the same boat, so when the opportunity arose to buy Herald from someone who is moving to the Outer Hebrides we had a discussion and decided to go for it. We will own half each and he will divide his time between our two little herds. Though he may eventually end up spending more time here as T & N have a public footpath and yurts.

He ‘throws’ lots of male calves – which is good for beef production. I wonder when I can officially say I’m farming. Steak anyone? Excited!. Terrified.

Thought Number 9 More Cows, the Coming Chaos and Meat Eating

North Devon

My friend L is reading a book about coping with the coming chaos, so she can make herself more resilient for the future…must ask her what she thinks is coming. We’re on our way to Somerset with her 5 year old daughter M on yet another rainy day to look at some North Devons. Her small herd has a couple of gaps since the two with TB were sent to slaughter. I didn’t realise but the culled TB cattle enter the food chain like any other animal.Herd of North Devon

The deep sided narrow lanes bordered by swathes of meadowsweet confuse us as they skirt pretty hillocks and expensive looking barn conversions. Finally we find the track to the farm, after some open woodland of ash and oak. We catch a glimpse through the raggedy hedges of the rich brown blocky shapes of the North Devons, pale cream horns standing out against the green and gray of a slope punctuated with stands of creeping thistle.Somerset Farmhouse

The farm house is almost totally overgrown at the front, some of the windows are boarded up, there are many things which have slid off the end of the list here. We are greeted by C, a one time traveller, who pitched up with his old Mercedes truck one day looking for a place to rest and ended up staying on. First as a part time cow hand and odd jobber and then, after D’s stroke, almost running the herd single handedly. His wide grinned enthusiasm, lip ring and goatee a reminder of times past, tell us that he has found a home.Tiny House

The herd is amazingly handsome, even in the pouring rain, particularly the bull Rufus who L admired very much – apparently he has lots of ‘leg’ which is unusual in a traditional breed. North Devon bull

I learn that you shouldn’t get too physically friendly with horned cattle when very young as when they want to play the same games when they’re fully grown you could be in trouble. I learnt my lesson says C after one of his favourites had him on the floor of the barn. But he doesn’t seem to bear any grudges. L agrees. A little bit of distance for ease of handling. Must remember this.

D sits on a chair facing us in the low light of the almost abandoned farmhouse. The dilapidation gives it a hollow feel, there is hardly any furniture and I glimpse in another room scattered papers and other rubbish which looks like it has been left in a hurry. Three filing cabinets are stacked up to one side and there is a desk where D has begun his list of all the North Devon bloodlines since 1852.

He is ethereal, with long gray hair and beard and is obviously much diminished by his stroke. It’s like he might disappear at any moment, and he has long delicate fingers. The picture of a voluptuous semi naked woman seated by a river on a calendar above the filing cabinets speaks of a more robust past as we stand before him amidst the desolation. C tells us later that he actually lives most of the time down the road with his sister in a bungalow where carers come in 3 times a day, which is a relief.Somerset Farmhouse

His broad Somerset burr and the softening, stretching and whispering of his words as a result of the stroke make it a challenge to understand, but a high level of concentration uncovers a bawdy sense of humour. He talks to L about the cow and heifers he’s selected for her, I guess she’ll negotiate later. Gloucester Old Spot Pigs

C introduces us to his two Gloucester Old Spot pigs which he’s just let loose in the old orchard. They are exuberant and snorty. One of them is ready for slaughter and we talk about how wonderful it is to have a freezer full of delicious pork.Gloucester Old Spot Pig

Looking at their piggy faces and stroking their coarse hair I wonder whether I will ever be able to see one of my Hereford steers grow to maturity and then kill it. I’m a meat eater, so why not? L tells me that the local slaughter house is a good one and the animals have minimal stress. Alternatively you can home slaughter, but then you’ve got a massive carcass to eat or give away as selling is illegal in these circumstances. It’s about £700/800 for a beef carcass at the moment. Morally speaking, if you eat meat, then shouldn’t you be able to bear it?.North Devon Cattle

Thought Number 5 Which Kind of Cow

The heifers are enjoying the shelter and protection of the outgrown hedge down the centre of the field this morning. Once upon a time it was two fields but slowly the boundary has blurred, with intermittent gaps between overgrown branches of Hawthorn which form a shady bower where they take refuge from biting flies and the heat of the sun. They no longer mind me so much and only get up from their lying positions when I get very close. They are slowly becoming curious. I chose this old breed (Traditional English Hereford) for their rarity, but mainly for their docility.

Cattle are pretty good grazers. They are selective, tugging with their tongues, seeking out the rough and the smooth and they leave some flowers and grasses to set seed rather than doing a complete hoover job like sheep and goats. And the result? More diversity in the plant communities of a pasture. The National Trust are quite keen on these kind of traditional breeds for the management of the land too, because they aren’t too fussy about being out in all weathers and eat a variety of vegetation.

It’s misty and sunny all at the same time, violet and milky blue, and a perfect rainbow begins to materialise, one foot hovering in the river below, the other somewhere I can’t see. Squinting in the sun with raindrops falling on my hood I set about cutting nettles and hogweed at the foot of the hedgerow before they set seed. The cows approach, hoping that I have a treat for them, and I admire their wide white faces and long lashes. 275’s horns have definitely grown. 274 sniffs my back and tries to eat the polypropylene sack I’m using for collecting the seed heads.

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