Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chillingham Cattle

For several months, I've been obsessed with the Chillingham Castle and the cattle that call the surrounding woods home. During the castle's long history it as the home base for the British during some pretty gruesome battles, was owned by the Earl Grays, provided sanctuary to a few kings, and remains shrouded in mystery. Today the castle serves as a tourist attraction and hosts weddings.

The Chillingham Castle is famous for three things;

  • ·         It’s the most haunted castle Great Britain’s most haunted castle
  • ·         King Edward made his home base Chillingham Castle when William Wallace (Braveheart) led his Scottish warriors into battle against
  • ·         It’s the home to the only herd of wild cattle in the world, the Chillingham
    Chilligham cow
    From the little research I’ve been able to do, it seems that no one really knows where the cattle came from. Some feel the Romans first established the herd, but everyone agrees they are a solid part of the area’s rich heritage, and something that should be preserved. Based on their coloring, I suspect the Chillingham Cattle share a genetic background with the British White Cattle
The most likely explanation for the presence of the cattle was that they provided a ready supply of meat for the castle's inhabitants. A place that size would have required an enormous amount of people and without refrigeration the only way to have fresh meat would have been keeping a herd close by and butchering on the spot.  Since being a practical meat supply isn't a very romantic story, other ideas explanations for the cattle's existence have been created. Some people believe the cows were once considered sacraed and for Pagan rituals.Another theory I came across was that the Romans brought the first Chillingham cattle to the area and used the cattle security purposes (if this was true, I have to give the Romans credit for their cow training abilities. I've been around a lot of cattle, but I can't think of a single one I would have trusted to watch over the place)

Today, the cattle lead a pretty cushy existence. They get to be cows and act as a local tourist attraction.

Personally, I’m not really sure what the term “wild” means with regards to cattle. My family raised Angus and we had a few that seemed to fit the bill, at least by my standards, but maybe they were just crazy.  In the case of the Chillingham cattle, the term wild means they’re raised without any human intervention. They breed, eat, calve, and die on their own. According to the official Chillingham cattle website they receive no vet care. New blood has not been introduced to the herd, so the hundred or so cattle currently roaming the Northumberland forest are the result of heavy inbreeding. 

I’m not sure how I feel about the way the Chillingham cattle are raised. It’s exactly the type of situation that pits the fanciful and practical aspects of my personality against one another. I do think it’s an thought-provoking case study and find the overall health of the animals interesting. 

Posted as part of the A-Z blogging challenge.


  1. for some reason I thought you were in the US
    Is Chillingham in Scotland? I'd nveer heard of it.
    Great pics ;)

  2. Now that's one castle that's passed me by somehow. Sounds like a fascinating place and I love the name!

  3. I love haunted castles, but I've never seen a ghost. I went to a stately home a couple of years ago where the ghosts used to show up in the middle of the day, and I didn't see any there either.

  4. CASTLES!! I'd love to live there. And see a ghost...

    Happy A through Z blogging!

  5. This is such a cool "C" post, Jess! I'd never heard of them, nor the castle, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it! Thanks :-)

  6. I know that they need to be preserved but how sad that they have to inbreed!