And did those hooves

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

It’s the time of year to get to your near­est agri­cul­tural show and cel­e­brate the role of Bri­tain’s farm an­i­mals be­yond the de­lights of the ta­ble (page 86). sheep, pigs and cat­tle aren’t merely bu­colic fur­ni­ture—they ex­plain why the coun­try­side looks as it does. Many land­scapes were cre­ated for them and by them.

Look at that lovely habi­tat, the English chalk down­land, speck­led with eye­bright and field scabi­ous. If the turf weren’t grazed, it would quickly be swamped by scrub— the wild­flow­ers would go. Cows don’t only pro­vide milk and but­ter and fuel the Bri­tish cheese rev­o­lu­tion, they en­sure that the small fields of the West re­main pas­ture and the re­main­ing ridge and fur­row of Northamp­ton­shire isn’t ploughed up.

An­i­mals ex­ist ev­ery­where. We have Ox­ford, Cow­ley, Bul­mer and Cal­ton (‘calf’s place’) thanks to cat­tle and shep­ton Mal­let, sheep­wash, shap­wick, ship­ton, ship­ley and skip­ton from sheep. the im­pact of sheep was dra­matic on some me­dieval and tu­dor set­tle­ments: vil­lages were swept away by abbeys and landown­ers who got a bet­ter re­turn from flocks that em­ployed only a few shep­herds than the labour-in­ten­sive open-field sys­tem.

the 16th-cen­tury En­clo­sure Ri­ots, the Mid­land Re­volt of 1607 and the Western Ris­ing of 1630–32 all failed to halt ovine as­cen­dancy—sheep were just too prof­itable. their fleeces built Foun­tains Abbey, Long Melford Church, stoke­say Cas­tle, the Mer­chant’s House in Marl­bor­ough, Hal­i­fax Piece Hall, the mills of Bradford (Wool City, as it was known in the 19th cen­tury), the Leeds-liver­pool Canal and much of the ar­chi­tec­ture of the Cotswolds, whose shaggy, breed, known as the Cotswold Lion, was man­aged through a retic­u­la­tion of dry-stone walls.

to the artist Charles John­son Payne, bet­ter known as snaf­fles, The Finest View in Europe, seen be­tween the ears of a horse, fea­tured a se­quence of for­mi­da­ble hedges, the stoutest of which could with­stand lively bul­locks. these were in the Mid­lands, where stock was fat­tened af­ter be­ing driven from Wales and ex­plains why the cream of what R. s. sur­tees’s jovial hunt­ing man Mr Jor­rocks called the ‘Cut ’em down and hang ’em up to dry coun­tries’ have tra­di­tion­ally been found in Le­ices­ter­shire and Northamp­ton­shire.

these land­scapes con­tinue to evolve, in line with mod­ern farm­ing prac­tice; hedgerows that were once purely func­tional yield a crop of plea­sure to walk­ers and bird­watch­ers. Farm econ­omy may mean that some an­i­mals are kept in­doors, but hur­rah for gam­bolling lambs, peace­fully graz­ing cat­tle and rootling pigs. We’d give a rosette to ev­ery one.

‘Hur­rah for gam­bolling lambs, graz­ing cat­tle and rootling pigs

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