Head Stockman Guy and our longhorn cattle

 

It is well known that the Heart of England Forest is all about planting a vast woodland comprised completely of native British trees, but did you know our founder, Felix Dennis, was also a supporter of rare breed cattle?

One breed that benefitted from his patronage are the indigenous English longhorns – the oldest registered breed of cattle in the world and not be confused with Texas longhorns. Our very own herd can be found grazing 500 acres of pasture around the Heart of England Forest’s Dorsington headquarters.

The man who is responsible for looking after all of the cattle on our land is former dairy farmer Guy Taylor. Guy took on the job as Head Stockman in 2001 and has worked to establish the herd which now includes one longhorn bull and 37 longhorns (mixed young stock). With 20 new-born longhorn calves, and a further eight heifers due to join the herd in the autumn, it’s a busy time of year for Guy!

A breed back in favour

A common sight across Britain throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, longhorns fell out of favour by the end of the 19th century, primarily because the trend for housed, cereal-fed cattle meant that their trademark long horns made them unwieldy in enclosed spaces. Over recent decades, though, their popularity has once again been on the rise. As Guy says “they are a very hardy breed, easy to maintain and hold their condition well. They rarely become agitated, except occasionally around calving time!”

Longhorns are also handsome animals, and Felix Dennis initially kept them in full view of his Dorsington home so that he could gaze out at them grazing his land. He also knew that in ancient times they would have been at home in the forests of Britain and served a useful purpose in densely populated woodland, with their horns performing the task of naturally thinning out low-lying foliage. When the Heart of England Forest is more firmly established, the longhorns will move freely through parts of the Forest, truly in their element in a scene that would have been commonplace three hundred years ago!

Taking stock

The longhorn herd is by no means Guy Taylor’s only concern. He oversees quite a menagerie, including 40 or so cattle of other breeds including Herefords (whose numbers will swell still further with the expected arrival of 30 or so newborn calves!), Swiss simmentals, charolais and Belgian blues along with three saddleback pigs and even three alpacas! That’s a lot of mouths to feed, and with around 50 acres of hay to collect and 80 acres of silage, it’s all hands to the pump throughout the summer as he and the team replenish the larder in readiness for the winter months!