Fighting

At times in the past, one bull has been the undisputed King of the herd, while if numbers are high bulls spend a lot of time trying to sort out who is boss. They challenge each other by bellowing, pawing the ground, and showing off their size and strength. They often fight, viciously, and occasionally to the death. So it is quite unusual for a bull to live as long as 12 years.

Even if a bull has won the right to mate, he might yet be thwarted. Old cows are clearly fussy about who they allow. Perhaps they discourage direct descendants – as they all look so similar, we really dont know! The cow horns are very slender and sharp pointed. They can puncture the flanks of the bulls, but they dont seem too bothered.

Most arguments are settled by displays – bellowing, pawing the ground, throwing earth and muck around. But sometimes things escalate. Between 1945 and 2005 eleven bulls and three females were recorded as having died as a result of injuries caused by other members of the herd, either through physical assault or fighting. In April 2023, the Park Manager witnessed a bull killing a fellow bull. This action involved none of the usual noisy ritual, nor even an in-season cow. It was an unprovoked assault into the flank of the unsuspecting victim.

Most big wild animals have a rutting season. Chillingham cattle don’t, so the bulls have to be ready for action all year round.

Left to live wild, the Wild Cattle of Chillingham can change from placid cud chewers to potential killers.

The Chillingham Wild Cattle are never handled; they can be dangerous to people. They are easily capable of killing each other. You will see how most of the bulls – and some of the cows – are scarred from fighting. Because cows can conceive all year round, the bulls must compete with each other for the chance to mate. In most other large wild grazing animals, such as deer and bison, there is a rutting season, but at Chillingham this activity is year-round.

Eye injuries are not uncommon and there is normally at least one one-eyed bull in the Park. The other common injury is puncture wounds in the flanks of bulls. Veterinary intervention is impossible, but the cattle seem to have an ability to heal themselves and infection does not seem to be an issue.

The cows are fiercely protective of their calves, and care tenderly for them. But within a few months, calves spend almost all their time with others of their year group.

At the moment the herd numbers around 120, and half of these are bulls. But in the past there have been far fewer – there were only 8 cows and 5 bulls in 1947, after a bitter winter. So what we see today originates from a very small gene pool.

As no new animals have joined the herd for at least 370 years, one of the big scientific questions is how do they cope with all this inbreeding? You could argue that scientifically, they cannot exist!

Come and see for yourself that they are indeed here, in their ancestral home next to Chillingham Castle, less than 10 miles from the magical coast of North Northumberland and close to Alnwick and Berwick.

At times in the past, one bull has been the undisputed King of the herd, while if numbers are high bulls spend a lot of time trying to sort out who is boss. They challenge each other by bellowing, pawing the ground, and showing off their size and strength. They often fight, viciously, and occasionally to the death. So it is quite unusual for a bull to live as long as 12 years.

Even if a bull has won the right to mate, he might yet be thwarted. Old cows are clearly fussy about who they allow. Perhaps they discourage direct descendants – as they all look so similar, we really dont know! The cow horns are very slender and sharp pointed. They can puncture the flanks of the bulls, but they dont seem too bothered.

Most arguments are settled by displays – bellowing, pawing the ground, throwing earth and muck around. But sometimes things escalate. Between 1945 and 2005 eleven bulls and three females were recorded as having died as a result of injuries caused by other members of the herd, either through physical assault or fighting. In April 2023, the Park Manager witnessed a bull killing a fellow bull. This action involved none of the usual noisy ritual, nor even an in-season cow. It was an unprovoked assault into the flank of the unsuspecting victim.

Most big wild animals have a rutting season. Chillingham cattle don’t, so the bulls have to be ready for action all year round.

Left to live wild, the Wild Cattle of Chillingham can change from placid cud chewers to potential killers.

The Chillingham Wild Cattle are never handled; they can be dangerous to people. They are easily capable of killing each other. You will see how most of the bulls – and some of the cows – are scarred from fighting. Because cows can conceive all year round, the bulls must compete with each other for the chance to mate. In most other large wild grazing animals, such as deer and bison, there is a rutting season, but at Chillingham this activity is year-round.

Eye injuries are not uncommon and there is normally at least one one-eyed bull in the Park. The other common injury is puncture wounds in the flanks of bulls. Veterinary intervention is impossible, but the cattle seem to have an ability to heal themselves and infection does not seem to be an issue.

The cows are fiercely protective of their calves, and care tenderly for them. But within a few months, calves spend almost all their time with others of their year group.

At the moment the herd numbers around 120, and half of these are bulls. But in the past there have been far fewer – there were only 8 cows and 5 bulls in 1947, after a bitter winter. So what we see today originates from a very small gene pool.

As no new animals have joined the herd for at least 370 years, one of the big scientific questions is how do they cope with all this inbreeding? You could argue that scientifically, they cannot exist!

Come and see for yourself that they are indeed here, in their ancestral home next to Chillingham Castle, less than 10 miles from the magical coast of North Northumberland and close to Alnwick and Berwick.