The Cadzow cattle are a remaining fold descended from the predominantly white cattle that roamed wild in the Caledonian Forest, with populations established in these ancient woods that at one time stretched from the west coast over to Blair Atholl. When the Romans arrived in Britain they wrote of these wild white cattle. They followed seasonal grazing, roaming freely, until the ‘enclosures’ when land reform brought in fenced lands. With their fine stature, white coat and distinctive black muzzle, the cattle have quite a presence with great charisma, so were popular on estates where they could be admired – although there were also tales of their wild behaviour.
The horned wild white cattle of the forests are mentioned by the Romans and right through the Middle Ages, their ferocity often remarked upon as well as their beauty. In 1225 Henry III passed laws resulting in the enclosure of lands previously open, resulting in herds of cattle that used to roam following the seasons, becoming fenced in. By this act, they became marginally tamed but still show characteristics of their wild ancestors.
The distinctive white coats have been favoured; with black muzzles, ears, feet and horn tips but today they also allow the black colours to prevail, reflecting the original British auroch DNA (based on 6Kg bones from Devon). They also have a gene for being polled. Genetically linked to Highlanders and Galloway, there have a remarkable genetic distance from any domestic breeds. There are also marked differences between the Cadzow and the white Chillingham cattle of England and the Cadzow breed are significantly larger.
Keith Stuart, Estate Farm Manager for the Duke of Hamilton has the responsibility of looking after these precious cattle. They graze naturally with cows growing to up to 800kg, and bulls up to 800-900kg by 4-5yrs old. In the wild, calves were traditionally concealed by their mothers and cows can still be lethal when with calf. 7-9 cattle are sent to market annually. There is interest in creating specialist routes to market.
The Duke of Hamilton is custodian of this exceptionally rare breed, as were his forefathers before him. Sometimes described in old text as the Hamilton cattle, one family seat was Hamilton Palace on the outskirts of Hamilton (the town originally named Cadzow). Although the palace is gone, the ruins, along with the Hunting Lodge remain in Chatelherault Country Park where a small number of the Cadzow cattle are kept on display. Chatelherault is named after a French town, twinned with Hamilton, relating to a title granted to the Hamiltons for their part in arranging the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to the Dauphin of France. Their dedication to the Cadzow cattle can be traced back to the 13th Century, resulting in the survival of this breed.
It would have been used for milk, meat and draught but laterally for meat production. The meat has excellent flavour and marbling and considered a speciality for gastronomes. It should be well hung to develop its fine flavour.
There are two folds of Cadzow cattle, The Lennoxlove fold and The Chatelherault. The six animals at Chatelherault are all castrated bull calves, to exhibit the breed in situ for display purposes, sold to South Lanarkshire Council. The main fold, The Lennoxlove, is owned by the Duke of Hamilton at Lennoxlove (their residence) where Keith Stuart, Estate Farm Manager is responsible for tending this unique breed. Each year 7-9 are slaughtered, butchered, and sent to customers in UK, Belgium, and Germany.
As with most heritage breeds the Cadzow is best cooked slowly at a medium heat. Old breeds generally benefit from slow moist cooking methods such as casseroles and pot roasts, maximising the wonderful flavours and cooking on the bone. By using the local herbs and seasonal vegetables the terroir is retained and its characteristic flavours can be fully appreciated.
There were several herds of Scottish white cattle, originally from the forests, in the early 19th Century but most had died out by the turn of the century. The Duke of Hamilton’s Cadzow cattle are extremely rare – currently 25 cows, with 18 calving (2021).
By the mid 1800’s the forests had dwindled, the cattle hunted and all but gone. The Chambers Encyclopaedia at that time mentions the white wild cattle roaming at Chatelherault. By late 19th Century there were only 8 cattle remaining, at which point one or two Chillingham bulls were brought north to preserve the breed. Since then, the Cadzow cattle have remained pure-bred, grazing freely.