This is a guest blog, kindly written by Elizabeth A. Bell
There has long been a connection between Crieff and the Highland Cow. It dates back to the 1700’s when Crieff held the largest and most prominent cattle market in Scotland. This was mainly the result of Crieff’s fortunate geographical location: it’s not too far from anywhere!
The cattle would be driven from as far North as Caithness and the Western Isles, sold and then driven as far south as Smithfield’s in London.
The Michaelmas Sale, ‘the Tryst’, was held until 1770 when it was moved to Falkirk by order of the Commissioners of the Forfeited Estates. It seems that Crieff continued to be punished for the Jacobite rebellion even years after.
So what are the origins of this majestic beast with its long horns and wavy woolly coat?
The Highland cow dates back to the Neolithic farmer in 200 BC. Cattle bones were found on the Ring of Ness in the Orkney Islands. And more impressively, its actual Highland Cattle’s Herd Book dates from 1885, making it the oldest Herd Book in the world.
There are two distinct types of Highland Cattle: the first is West Highlands or Kyloes which originate from the Western Isles and tend to be black, and smaller than their Mainland cousins, because they graze on the ‘kyles,’ (land promotories extending off the isles where the grass is thin).
Their nickname comes from the open stone shelters where they often sleep and which protect from the worst of the weather. In Scots, these shelters are known as ‘kyloes.’ An example is pictured here is just off Lagan Hill above Crieff.
We have both types here in Crieff, these two are pictured in a field near the Crieff Hydro Activity Centre – the differences between the two types can be seen immediately!
So why are they so popular?
In addition to their good looks and charm, they really are outstanding in every way!
Their milk has higher butter fat content so makes a ‘better butter’ and cheese. And their meat is leaner and lower in cholesterol. It seems there are more reasons to love them than may seem obvious at first!
There is still a thriving trade today and there is a ‘Highland Cattle Society’whose website is www.highlandcattlesociety.com.
We celebrate Highland Cattle in Crieff in numerous ways but the two most familiar are through the new metal sculptures in Burrell Square installed by Crieff in Leaf in October www.creiffinleaf.btck.co.uk, and the annual Drovers Tryst Walking Festival www.droverstryst.com held annually usually in October.
It’s wonderful that through this event and these beautiful public artworks, Crieff continues to celebrate and honour the links to its past and these iconic beasts.
By Elizabeth A. Bell