‘In a world of increasing ecological fragility, there has been no more important moment to focus on the health of nature and what it means to us as human beings, and how we relate to it.’ – Lord Edward Manners.
These beautiful creatures, which come in a wide range of brindle colours from grey to red, with their characteristic white line or ‘finching’ running down their spine and tail, are an essential element to the regeneration of the park.
The English Longhorns are browsers as well as grazers. More explicitly – they don’t only eat grass but enjoy eating the leaves and twigs on trees, nettles and other vegetation. allowing them to survive happily outside in the winter, when grass is scarce.
Despite having an impressive sweep of horns, they are not related to the American or Texas Longhorn but are the offspring of an interbreeding of a horned heifer and a Westmoreland bull which created the Dishley Longhorn, now called the English Longhorn, by the agriculural revolutionist Robert Bakewell (1725-1795). At first, the Longhorns were prized for their size, hardiness, ease of calving, breeding capacity, and the high butterfat content of their milk. But sadly, with the introduction of the Shorthorn in the 1800s, and other more commercial meat and milk breeds, the Longhorn population declined rapidly, becoming rare by the 1960s, only surviving by the endeavours of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
But Longhorns have had a comeback, as their independence, knowledge, characteristics and instincts make them a perfect choice for a regeneration project such as ours. Not only are they marvellous transporters of seed, through their poo, hair and hooves, but their ancient lineage provides the tool kit they need to live outside in a very natural way. They know what herbs to eat to heal, they suit an open varied landscape as they like to roam, they enjoy working as a herd with a strong matriarch and much prefer to calve outside on their own. If we try to get them back in the winter, they almost flatly refuse.