First pedigree British White Cattle calf born at Blenheim Estate

One of 12 baby calves, linked to the ancient British White cattle breed, has been born at the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a reintroduction programme.

British White Cattle calf with mum Ava in ancient oak woodland on the Blenheim Estate in Oxfordshire
Published: May 6th, 2022 at 8:59 pm

A pedigree British White Cattle calf has been born at Blenheim Estate as part of a reintroduction programme. It is one of seven to be born at the Oxfordshire site in recent days, with another six on the way, ready to join the existing herd.

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The herd was introduced into an ancient oak woodland on the 2,000-acre Oxfordshire estate known as High Park three years ago, to trample undergrowth and clear spaces for acorns from the ancient oaks to germinate and grow.

Head Shepherd Tom Locke said, “With lots of hard work and estates like ours, it means these rare breeds won’t be lost and it’s incredibly heart-warming to see. It’s my first calving season on the Estate so I’m looking forward to watching the calves grow up.”

Close up of British White Cattle calf with mum Ava on the Blenheim Estate in Oxfordshire./Credit: Pete Seaward

The reintroduction of the cattle is part of the estate’s Land Strategy plan that seeks to utilise and open up access to the 12,000-acre estate over the coming decades. High Park is home to the greatest number of ancient oak trees anywhere in Europe. Around 90% of the woodland is made up of oak trees and it is thought that at least 60 of them date back to the Middle Ages.

“We wanted a heritage breed that would complement the Estate,” said Locke. “In the end we decided to go with the native British White Cattle as they claim direct links with the ancient indigenous wild white cattle of Great Britain.

“The ancient connection was important to us as our Estate has some of the oldest oaks in Europe, some of which were planted over 1000 years ago during the reign of Henry I.

British White Cattle calf on the Blenheim Estate in Oxfordshire portrait./Credit: Pete Seaward.

In the past 100 years, the total number of herds has slowly increased from just 7, totalling 150 cows, to more than 116 different herds, containing 1,500 registered cattle, throughout the UK.

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The calf's mother, Ava, is doing well.

Authors

Tanya Jackson in red checked shirt and rucksack standing by a wall with a big smile
Tanya Jacksonacting group digital editor

Tanya Jackson is the acting group digital editor of countryfile.com and discoverwildlife.com. Her parents had a pet shop when she was growing up, so she learnt very young how intelligent rats are and why you don’t stick your hands near the beak of a cockatoo. She loves camping, hiking and watching the red kites soar over the Wiltshire hills.

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