Once upon a time longhorn cattle were abundant and kept by many people; in fact, they were the most abundant domestic cattle, and this breed more than any others was selected for ‘improvement’ by Robert Bakewell (1725-1795) of Leicestershire, the great pioneer of domestic cattle breeding (note that I’m talking here about English longhorn, not Texas longhorn). Prior to Bakewell’s work, cattle of both sexes had been kept together and allowed to breed as and when, but by deliberately selecting certain individuals with certain traits (he was specifically breeding cattle to increase meat yield) Bakewell fixed and exaggerated those traits that he considered desirable.
Characteristic longhorn features including down-curved, sickle-shaped horns and finching: this term refers to the white stripe that runs along the back and tail. Some people think that finching serves as a warning marking, alerting other members of the herd to the fact that some of their number are making off into cover (presumably because danger has been detected). Longhorns also tend to be brindled.
Ironically, Bakewell’s focus on the longhorn partly resulted in its decline in popularity (mostly because the cross-breeding techniques pioneered on this breed could then be used in a more perfected state on other breeds, most notably the shorthorn), and by the 1950s it was rare and in danger of extinction. The good news is that this has been reversed in recent years, and the breed now enjoys great popularity. Not only do they produce a lean meat, they calve easily, are long-lived, and are surprisingly docile. They also look awesome. The picture here is a bronze statue of one you can see in Oxford, just opposite the train station. After walking past it many times I decided on my last visit to take a photo. Unfortunately I know nothing about it nor why it’s there. Let me know if you do. I hope it is meant to be a longhorn, otherwise this post is going to look very silly.