Adam’s Farm Animals: White Park cattle

Britain's most ancient breed of cattle, the White Park is a firm favourite on the Cotswold farm of Countryfile presenter Adam Henson


Average height of bull: 146cm (4ft 9in)
Average weight of bull:
955kg (2,100lb)
Probably introduced by the Romans. Records of this type of cattle date back to 5th century Wales
How rare is it?
Listed as minority, meaning approximately 1,500 animals left in UK
Living in the Cotswolds, it’s hard not to notice the influence the Romans had on the area. Bukle Street, the road that leads to my farm, was built by Imperial hands and it’s highly likely that the cattle they brought with them to use as draft oxen were White Parks, distant descendants of the same rare-breed cattle that now graze in my fields alongside the very same road.
These magnificent animals, with their striking features – a white body and black points on their nose, ears and eyes – have certainly stood the test of time. When the Romans evacuated Britain in 410AD their herds of White Parks were set free and roamed the forests of England. They were eventually enclosed in five large deer parks and hunted on horse back by the Plantagenet monarchs until the 13th century.
The Chillingham cattle in Northumberland still live as a wild herd, but thankfully my White Parks are very well domesticated and generally easy to work with. The cows are great mothers and very self-sufficient, rearing their calves with ease.
These beautiful animals are not only visually striking, but also a culinary delight. They produce a deliciously lean, marbled meat which, according to legend at least, certainly pleased King James I.
On devouring a succulent loin of White Park beef, the monarch is said to have promptly knighted the animal, coining the phrase sirloin.

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This feature was taken from issue 28 of Countryfile Magazine. To make sure you never miss an issue subscribe today.