Breed History


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Breed History


The Kerry is believed to be one of the oldest breeds in Europe. The skull is very similar in formation to the ancient aurochs of the Stone Age, the wild bull of Europe ( Bos primogenius ) though, of course, miniature in size.

Probably the Kerry has its ancestors the little black cow, the Celtic short-hom, brought by neolithic man in his migrations northwards from the Mediterranean basin. It has the distinction of being the first breed developed primarily as a milk producer.

There are close affinities with the Heren, the little black breed surviving in the high Alps, and with the fierce black bulls of the Camargue and when prehistoric man in Asia, North Africa and Europe was selecting and breeding cattle for draught and meat, the Celtic civilisation in Ireland was producing a breed of cattle for milk and dairy produce.

Records have been found which show that milk or milk products were preserved in various forms; and possibly treated with herbs and kept in jars under ground. What appears certain is that milk in some form was the main diet in the early Irish Celtic civilisation. With the mild climate and the long season of grazing, milk was produced almost, if not entirely all year around.

Here was possibly the first civilisation founded on a milk diet, and to achieve this the first dairy cows were skilfully bred; the ancestors of the Kerry.

The Kerry is now a minority breed, but numbers have increased since 1980.