The Softer Crofter – it’s a family affair

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When the BBC runs out of celebrities for Who Do You Think You Are we will be ready with our pitch for a much more interesting line-up.

The shaggy, ginger stars of the show will outshine the A-listers with buckets more personality and slightly fewer hair and make-up requirements.

Our boisterous Highland cows come from a prestigious Argyll fold traced through succession to the 1870s.

Their family tree would put few demands on the BBC’s genealogists, however, our attempts to trace cattle from an old fold belonging to my husband ‘s great-grandfather might benefit from the expertise of one of those white-gloved historians.

When we bought our three girls two years ago we were setting out to create our own Highland fold and, for sentimental reasons, had hoped to link it to the bloodline of the family fold in southern Knapdale.

We are lucky to have a lovely old leather-bound herd book drawn up by Marion Campbell recording the great-grandfather’s Craigfeanndagach fold, but it archives breeding only up until the 1930s when Adam Livingstone and his wife Catherine moved from Kilberry. After that the trail went cold.

After weeks trawling through the internet and the Highland Cattle Society’s database we recovered the trail and found a bull descended from Craigfeanndagach that was quite the Casanova of the 1950s.

His amorous prowess saw him sire hundreds of offspring up and down the country, including, it seems, among the fold on Loch Awe where our girls were born.

However, laying claim to Casanova’s heritage could be akin to US presidential candidate John McCain’s claim to be a descendant of Robert the Bruce.

The 14th century king is thought to have sired at least a dozen children and he is estimated to have as many as 200 million people distantly related to him.

Admittedly, our bovine genealogy relates to a significantly shorter time period, but considerably reduced generation length with cows often beginning to become mothers at around three years of age.

Our own girls will become the matriarchs of our new Cille Creag fold in a year or two, all being well.

A holiday romance with an attentive bull will be arranged, either their place or his, and hopefully Bob’s your uncle – or, as McCain would claim, your medieval royal ancestor.

Despite having no qualms about sending our pampered pigs and wild ewes to the butcher, all plans for the cattle are for breeding, showing and general furry fun.

They are undisputedly pets, with names, foibles and such individual personalities that they can be recognised just by their behaviour.

Lady Jane lives up to her title with good manners, gentleness and a fondness for apples, but only if daintily sliced.

Patsy is the firecracker; she is a rascal that could do with remembering that her horns are growing at a tremendous rate and head-butting games with her two-legged friends are banned.

Her attitude to her four-legged pals could do with some revision too.

She is a bit of a playground bully and has no shame in side-barging poor Demi at every opportunity.

Demi is a beauty with the perfect horn shape and the reddest coat of them all, but she is a wee bit socially awkward.

She hangs with the sheep, enjoying her chance to dominate as she really is at the bottom of the Highland pecking order.

It will be interesting to see how these traits transfer into their mothering behaviour and how they are passed on to their fluffy wee ones when the time comes.

Hierarchies are said to continue through generations so we could soon have a wee brood of princesses, scamps and misfits.

The patter of tiny hooves will herald a whole new adventure and, perhaps, a new family tree that will thrive again through family generations.


no_a18SofterCtrofter01. The croft’s shaggy-haired girls get acquainted

no_a18SofterCtrofter02. ‘Patsy’ enjoys a siesta at the shore

no_a18SofterCtrofter03. Mairi Ross granddaughter of the Craigfeanndagach breeder gets cosy with ‘Lady Jane’

no_a18SofterCtrofter04. ‘Demi’ has a taste for the dafter side of life