30 November 2001

Gloucesters back from brink

GLOUCESTER cattle enthusiasts are in upbeat mood, as they launch a new book charting the breeds fortunes.

The book tells how one of the countrys oldest breeds – and the source of the famed Gloucester cheeses – has been rescued from near extinction.

With 700 breeding females now nationwide – found as far apart as the Isle of Wight, Orkney and the Isle of Man – it is now off the Rare Breeds Survival Trusts critical list.

"The Gloucester is a breed whose survival has truly depended upon the dedication and love of a stubborn few," says Libby Henson, a lifelong fan. "They refused to let it die and I am proud to feel I played my part in that story."

The book, launched last week at Cirencester Park, features contributions from many of those involved with this "strikingly beautiful" animal.

Charles Martell recalls how one haulier after the famous Wick Court sale took stock back to his yard for the night. "These cattle didnt like being taken away from home. During the night they broke out and, thinking they were the other side of the river from home, swam across the Severn. I have a vision of them on a clear moonlit night, their upswept horns making a fine silhouette against the moons reflection of the water."

According to Richard Lutwyche of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, breeds such as this have benefited from the increased interest in sustainable agriculture based on local food, animal welfare and extensive farming.

He adds: "Foot-and-mouth hasnt had a major detrimental effect or this breed thankfully. But the disease isnt over yet and we are not being complacent. We are still very anxious that that it may come back and may do a lot of damage."

&#8226 Tales of Gloucesters – the rescue of a cattle breed. Published by the Gloucester Cattle Society, priced £6.50 + £1 p+p (01993 846600)