First Blush

Reflections and sightings from [almost] daily jogging at dawn

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunrise 6:15 am: The Belted Galloways of Stanford

About five years ago, a herd of distinctively marked black and white cattle replaced a herd of Texas Longhorns on some Stanford land between Alpine and Sand Hill Road. The Dawn Joggers catch glimpses of them on their "Big Dish" route but about two-thirds of the time, they are out of sight.

Where did they come from? What's their purpose? Where are they grazing when not in view from Alpine? Today they got answers - and an upclose inspection - thanks to a Scotsman whose home backs up to their grazing land.

Through some Internet research, the DJs had identified the cattle as Belted Galloways, an old Scottish breed with characteristic markings of black, red or dun sandwiched about a while middle. (Yes, like an Oreo cookie, although the DJs coined them "police cows" as they first spotted them in the flurry of homeland security following 9/11.) It's believed they developed during the 16th century in the Galloway district, a rugged and hilly seacoast region. The breed produces what's regarded as exceptionally lean and flavorful meat. The local herd is privately owned - the owner leases the land from Stanford - and individual animals are sold to beef connoisseurs.

The DJs, with Cassie in tow, ran into the Scotsman when they pulled up to an area the female DJ had been told might provide good views of the herd. He grew up on a farm that raised Belted Galloways on an island off the west coast of Scotland. So, he found it full of irony that he could see the same breed from his California home. He's monitored the herd for the past four years, including the era when a particularly precocious bull would pull away a section of fence and lead the herd on tours of the nearby neighborhood. That bull has since been replaced by a less adventuresome male.

A particular thrill for the DJs was finally seeing their "police cows" up close thanks to a gate from the Scotsman's backyard to the grazing land. It was here that the herd "hid" when not on view along Alpine. They saw a couple of fairly young calves as well as more that seemed a few months older. The day was beginning to warm up, and the herd was taking refuge under a couple of big oak trees.

The DJs kept Cassie on a leash and some distance from the herd, although she had learned not to bother cattle in the days when the Dish was open to dogs. After all, Australian Shepherds are bred to herd cattle and sheep, and even at 12, she still enjoys a good romp across an open field.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just getting interested in the Belted Gallaway, we could see them off the freeway. Have they been moved from the location where they have been for the last few years. Can you tell me where they have been moved. And hopefully not to the slaughter.

5:32 PM  

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