Wild Cattle

One of the rarest animals on Earth, a visit to the Wild Cattle of Chillingham combined with a tour of the fine Castle make an absolutely unique day out in beautiful Northumberland.

Perhaps for as long as 700 years these remarkable animals have inhabited Chillingham Park. Isolated from all other cattle, they are totally inbred yet remain fit and healthy – a unique situation without parallel in any wild animal anywhere else in the world.

The animals are regarded as a scientific marvel; inbreeding throughout history is well known to lead to extinction because of the small gene pool that the animals share. Studies with the most modern DNA technology show that the cattle have a uniquely high degree of genetic uniformity. We don’t yet know if this is the result of chance or if it is in some way related to the survival of this unique population; even so, the Chillingham Wild Cattle have managed to survive in spite of this, and the herd continues to grow.

The beasts are also completely untamed and have remained untouched since medieval times, so their behaviour is entirely natural and can give us insight into the lives of their extinct wild ancestors. It is said that if an animal is handled by humans, the herd will turn on it and kill it. We dont know if this is actually true and have no intention to find out!

The cattle breed throughout the year, and it is pot luck if a calf is born in a January blizzard or a summer heat wave. The bulls will fight for the right to mate with  a cow in season, but older cows will also have a considerable say in who wins the prize.

Since 1860, records have been kept on the breeding behaviour and numbers of the Chillingham Cattle. The sixth Earl of Tankerville started observing them more closely following the encouragement of Charles Darwin. This is the oldest Herd Book in the world and is still maintained today.

 

One of the rarest animals on Earth, a visit to the Wild Cattle of Chillingham combined with a tour of the fine Castle make an absolutely unique day out in beautiful Northumberland.

Perhaps for as long as 700 years these remarkable animals have inhabited Chillingham Park. Isolated from all other cattle, they are totally inbred yet remain fit and healthy – a unique situation without parallel in any wild animal anywhere else in the world.

The animals are regarded as a scientific marvel; inbreeding throughout history is well known to lead to extinction because of the small gene pool that the animals share. Studies with the most modern DNA technology show that the cattle have a uniquely high degree of genetic uniformity. We don’t yet know if this is the result of chance or if it is in some way related to the survival of this unique population; even so, the Chillingham Wild Cattle have managed to survive in spite of this, and the herd continues to grow.

The beasts are also completely untamed and have remained untouched since medieval times, so their behaviour is entirely natural and can give us insight into the lives of their extinct wild ancestors. It is said that if an animal is handled by humans, the herd will turn on it and kill it. We dont know if this is actually true and have no intention to find out!

The cattle breed throughout the year, and it is pot luck if a calf is born in a January blizzard or a summer heat wave. The bulls will fight for the right to mate with  a cow in season, but older cows will also have a considerable say in who wins the prize.

Since 1860, records have been kept on the breeding behaviour and numbers of the Chillingham Cattle. The sixth Earl of Tankerville started observing them more closely following the encouragement of Charles Darwin. This is the oldest Herd Book in the world and is still maintained today.