2021 the Centenary of the Albion cow

The rare Albion is a recent addition to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Watchlist.


Albion cow photographed at High Lickbarrow Farm near Windermere
Albion cow, High Lickbarrow Farm

I first came across Albion cows at High Lickbarrow farm near Windemere. These beautiful, docile dual-purpose animals had been left to the National Trust along with the farm in October 2015. Since then, they have been added to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Watchlist in their ‘priority’ category, and some have found their way to Cotswold Farm Park, the home of Adam Henson of Countryfile fame, and the first RBST farm park (http://cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk/farming/animals-breeds/cattle/).

Alice the Albion, Cotswold Farm park, Gloucestershire
Alice the Albion, Cotswold Farm park

January 1st 2021 was the centenary of the Blue Albion Cattle Society. They were once called “Bakewell Blues’” thought to be a cross between Welsh Blacks and Whitebred or dairy Shorthorns. Hybrid vigour is an important aspect of animal breeding where the offspring are larger, more vigorous and more fertile than either of the parents (it is essential to the sheep breeding pyramid (see Swaledales and the sheep breeding pyramid blog: https://www.ullswaterfeltart.com/post/swaledale-sheep-and-the-sheep-breeding-pyramid).


Blue Grey cow and calf photographed in the Ullswater valley
Blue Grey cow and calf

Blue Grey cow photographed in the Ullswater valley
Blue Grey cow

Like the popular Blue Grey cattle of today, which are a cross between a Whitebred Shorthorn and a Black Galloway they do not breed true in the second generation. In 1921, these genetics were not fully understood and calves that were black or white (50% of all calves) were not registered, thereby limiting the gene pool. Outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in the 1920s and the 1960s, the depression in the 1920's and the modern trend towards single purpose (either meat or dairy) cows resulted in a severe decline in the Albions (the “blue” has been dropped to reflect the variety of colouring.)


Albion cattle are now in the safe hands of the RBST, who have not allowed a British native breed to go extinct since their formation in 1973. High Lickbarrow continues to use them for conservation grazing on a farm that is an SSSI due to the careful management of the Bottomly family over many years. Unfortunately, High Lickbarrow is not open to he public.

I have needle felted some Albion cattle using alpaca fibre as part of my RBST watchlist project.


Fibre art portrait of Alice the Albion cow, Cotswold Farm park
Fibre art portrait of Alice the Albion cow

https://www.albioncattlesociety.co.uk

https://www.rbst.org.uk/albion

Albion cow and calf photographed at High Lickbarrow farm near Windermere
Albion cow and calf, High Lickbarrow farm

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