KERRY LIVESTOCK

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

From the introduction of the improved kinds of cattle from Great Britain, the county now possesses the long-horned Leicester, the Hereford, the Holderness, and the Devon breeds: the common cattle of the country are partly of the long and partly of the short horned, varying in size according to their pasture: in mountain farms they are very small and chiefly short-horned. The mixtures of blood have operated towards the extinction of the original Kerry breed of small cattle, so beautiful in their shape, so valuable for their milk, and so easily fattened to the best quality of fine grained meat. Yet some of their good qualities still remain: they frequently prove good milchers, and almost all, when brought into rich pastures, increase considerably in size arid make excellent beef.

The dairy stock is of a very good description, not of any distinct breed, but what may be termed an excellent grazier's cow, of good shape and thrifty appearance, weighing from four to six cwt. when fat. The sheep are of the mountain kind, in some parts of good size, and in general with very good wool of clothing quality: from their strong resemblance to the Merino, particularly in the formation of the horns of the males, and from the former communication between Spain and this part of Ireland, there is every reason to suppose that the mountain flocks of this county are deeply crossed with Merino blood. Numerous herds of goats are fed on the mountains, which, though apparently suffered to ramble at large, are collected every evening for milking by dogs trained for the purpose.

Little attention is paid to the breed of swine. In some places a very bad description of long-legged, thin, flat-ribbed pig, difficult to fatten, is met with; in others, a well-formed white pig, easily fattened and weighing from two to three cwt., is reared. The Suffolk breed of horses has been introduced, but has not spread largely through the county.

The Kerry ponies, once so famed, and originally of Spanish or rather of Moorish extraction, were formerly strong enough for farming purposes, but now, by injudicious crossing, are so degenerated as to be fit only for the saddle and for very light weights. Numbers of them are brought down from the mountains to Killorglin fair, in droves of perhaps a score together, not one of them having been ever embarrassed by a halter, till sold there. Ponies of a superior description are occasionally offered for sale here, and command high prices. Some of the wilder mountains are still haunted by the native red deer, and a few of the fallow deer still remain wild about Ballyheigue; the hunting of the former through the mountains of Killarney, with their resounding echoes, affords sport of the most animating description.

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