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A breed of cattle native to the Shetland Islands - now threatened with extinction. Largely due to the harsh environment and sparse grazing the breed is small in stature, perhaps 100-100cm at the withers and weighing 300-400kg. They are well-suited to the islands, as they are easy to transport in small boats.

They were frequently used as a triple purpose breed by islanders being superseded in many cases only as late as the 1940's by tractors for draught purposes. They were milked three times a day or sold as beef animals for fattening on the mainland, where they can increase in body weight by 50%. As the population on the Shetlands declined and the agricultural industry turned increasingly to machine power the popularity of the Shetland cow decreased. By the 1950's there were fewer than 40 pure breed animals remaining in Shetland.

The Shetland is a fine-boned, short-legged, deep-bodied breed with short, fine horns curving inwards and slightly upwards. Traditionally the animals were tethered by their horns. Colour originally included red and white, red, dun, dun and white, black, grey, brindle or brown and white. The Breed Society, established in 1910 set the standard for black and white pied, although red and white animals are sometimes still seen. A small number were shipped from the Shetlands to the Falkland Isles in 1983 to help repopulate the islands after the war, otherwise they remain in the U.K.

It's estimated there are now about 300 breeding females surviving. For information contact - The Shetland Cattle Herd Book Society, Agricultural Marketing Centre, Staneyhill, Nr. Lerwick, Shetland, ZE1 0NA. Email: See 'Rare Breed Survival Trust'

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