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Hereford cattle breed promotion

If Herefordshire farmers had been left in charge of the promotion of the Hereford breed it would probably have gained no more than a local reputation. Fortunately for the breed it had supporters elsewhere. For example, a Mr J.H. Campbell of Charlton, Kent, wrote two papers for the Annals of Agriculture on Herefords between 1790 and 1792.

In 1800 the Duke of Bedford visited Hereford at the time of the Easter Cattle Fair. On his arrival in Hereford the Duke invited 100 breeders and dealers to dine with him at the Green Dragon. He explained to the men that he and Lord Berners intended to buy breeding stocks of the very finest quality so that herds of Herefords could be founded at Woburn Abbey and on the Midland estate of Lord Berners. The Herefordshire farmers were not so enthusiastic, but the Tullys, Skyrmes and several others were persuaded that it was in their interest to work with the Duke. The dealers complained as this put the prices up by £1 per head.

In 1797 the Herefordshire Agricultural Society was founded with the Earl of Oxford as President and Mr. T.A. Knight as Vice-President. This gave local breeders the chance to indulge in local competition. Competition on a more national scale had to wait until the founding of the Royal Agricultural Society of England in 1839. The policy of the Royal Society of moving their show every year to one or other of the principal cities in the kingdom broke down the self-imposed barriers which had confined Hereford breeders to the county borders.

In 1816, 1818 and 1819 huge prices were reached for Hereford cattle at sales, and this led to demands for the registration of breeds from buyers. The lack of registration of Herefords led to the loss of many wealthy dealers and the rival Shorthorn breed was able to increase its popularity as they had had a herd book since 1822.

The cost of an uncontrolled market in Herefords became clear in 1833 when the U.S. Hereford Herd Book included a rule that "all Herefords imported into America after that date should be accepted for registration if the sire or dam of such importations were recorded in volume 13 of the English Herd Book". This was because the Americans believed that Britain was sending them inferior stock to keep up with demand

The first volume of the Hereford Herd Book was published in 1846 by Mr T. Eyton of Wellington, Shropshire. Face colour still varied and critics queried the purity of origin of coloured-faced cattle. In the end Hereford breeders surrendered to a purely white-faced breed of cattle.

In the first volume 551 bulls were entered by 75 breeders. Six years later the second volume was published with an additional 350 bulls. Mr Eyton announced his intention to cease publication and the fate of the Hereford Herd Book remained in the balance until 1857, when it was agreed that Thomas Duckham of Baysham Court should be asked to publish it on an annual basis. This also led to the stipulation that a fee of 11s be paid for each head of stock entered.

On 5th March 1878 the Hereford Herd Book Society was incorporated. Her Majesty Queen Victoria was the first patron, Mr. J.H. Arkwright of Hampton Court was the first President and the Earl of Coventry the first Vice-President. Mr S.W. Urwick was appointed secretary.

In the 1870s and 1880s there was an increased interest in Herefords from America, especially from the ranch areas of the far west prairies.

In 1886 the Herd Book was closed to any animal that was not the offspring of any sire or dam already entered.

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2005]