The Hereford breed of cattle as described in writings around the 1864 time frame.
These cattle derive their name from a county in the western part of
England. Their general characteristics are a white face, sometimes mottled; white throat, the white generally
extending back on the neck, and sometimes, though rarely, still further along on the back. The color of the rest of
the body is red, generally dark, but sometimes light. Eighty years ago the best Hereford cattle were mottled or
roan all over; and some of the best herds, down to a comparatively recent period, were either all mottled, or had
the mottled or speckled face.
The expression of the face is mild and lively; the forehead open,
broad, and large; the eyes bright and full of vivacity; the horns glossy, slender and spreading; the head small,
though larger than, and not quite so clear as, that of the Devons; the lower jaw fine; neck long and slender; chest
deep; breast-bone large, prominent, and very muscular; the shoulder-blade light; shoulder full and soft; brisket
and loins large; hips well developed, and on a level with the chine; hind quarters long and well filled in;
buttocks on a level with the back, neither falling off nor raised above the hind quarters; tail slender, well set
on; hair fine and soft; body round and full; carcass deep and well formed, or cylindrical; bone small; thigh short
and well made; legs short and straight, and slender below the knee; as handlers very excellent, especially mellow
to the touch on the back, the shoulder, and along the sides, the skin being soft, flexible, of medium thickness,
rolling on the neck and the hips; hair bright; face almost bare, which is characteristic of pure Herefords.
They belong to the middle horned division of the cattle of Great Britain, to which they
are indigenous, and have been improved within the last century by careful selections.
Hereford oxen are excellent animals, less active but stronger than the Devons, and very
free and docile. The demand for Herefords for beef prevents their being much used for work in their native county,
and the farmers there generally use horses instead of oxen.
It is generally conceded that the qualities in which Herefords stand pre-eminent among
the middle-sized breeds are in the production of oxen and their superiority of flesh. On these points there is
little chance of their being excelled. It should, however, be borne in mind that the best oxen are not produced
from the largest cows; nor is a superior quality of flesh, such as is considered very soft to the touch, with thin
skin. It is the union of these two qualities which often characterizes the short horns; but Hereford breeders, as a
recent writer remarks, should endeavor to maintain a higher standard of excellence, that for which the best of the
breed have always been esteemed, a moderately thick, mellow hide, with a well apportioned combination of softness
with elasticity. A sufficiency of hair is also desirable, and if accompanied with a disposition to curl moderately,
it is more in esteem; but that which has a harsh and wiry feel is objectionable.
In point of symmetry and beauty of form, the well bred Herefords may be classed with
the improved short horns, though they arrive somewhat more slowly at maturity, and never attain such weight. Like
the improved short horns, they are chiefly bred for beef, and their beef is of the best quality in the English
markets, commanding the highest price of any, except perhaps, the West Highlanders. The short horn produces more
beef at the same age than the Hereford, but consumes more food in proportion.
The Herefords are far less generally spread over England than the improved short horns.
They have seldom been bred for milk, as some families of the latter have; and it is not very unusual to find
pure-bred cows incapable of supplying milk sufficient to nourish their calves. They have been imported to this
country to some extent, and several fine herds exist in different sections; the earliest importations being those
of Henry Clay, of Kentucky, in 1817.
The want of care and attention to the udder, soon after calving, especially if the cow
be on luxuriant grass, often injures her milking properties exceedingly. The practice in the county of Hereford has
generally been to let the calves suckle from four to six months, and bull calves often run eight months with the
cow. But their dairy qualities are perhaps as good as those of any cattle whose fattening properties have been so
carefully developed; and, though it is probable that they could be bred for milk with proper care and attention,
yet, as this change would be at the expense of other qualities equally valuable, it would evidently be wiser to
resort to other stock for the dairy.