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British White Cattle - Links

.... to Historical Literature

         The following are links to ancient literary and historical texts which mention white cows with red ears or white 'kine', which also means cow.  As already mentioned, the British White breed has lines of cattle with red points. In days of old the appearance of red points was perhaps not as unique as it is today - thus their use in ancient fairy tales.  Or - it was just as rare back in the day as now - we will never know.  Click on the links and use your Edit and Find tabs on the menu bar to locate the text in the oftentimes lengthy stories.


         "The reward of the recital of this story is a white-spotted, red-eared cow, a shirt of new linen, a woolen cloak with its brooch, from a king and queen, from married couples, from stewards, from princes, to him who is able to tell and recite it to them."  The Vision of MacConglinne

          ". . . a perfectly white cow with red ears, and boil it down in a lump."  Irish Fairy Tales - Morgan's Frenzy 

          "There were fifty white red-eared kine (cow) there and each cow had a white calf at her side. The King had ordered Art, his Steward, to drive them away. The King of Ireland's Son watched Art and his men trying to do it. But no sooner were the strange cattle put out at one side of the field than they came back on the other. Then down came Maravaun, the King's Councillor. He declared they were enchanted cattle, and that no one on Ireland's ground could put them away. So in the seven-acre field the cattle stayed." Fedelma - The Enchanter's Daughter

          ". . . and fill it with the milk of a white cow. . ."  The Bath of the White Cows

          ". . . insisted on getting seven hundred white cows with red ears. . ."  The Progress of the Wicked Bard

          "Thither then the Morrigan  came in the shape of a white, hornless, red-eared heifer, with fifty heifers about her and a chain of silvered bronze between each two of the heifers”  (The Conversation of the Mórrígan with Cú Chulainn, The Tain, Translated by Joseph Dunn, P. 169, 2005)

           ". . . a bull feast was made.  A white bull killed,"  The High King of Ireland

           “. . .And he gave a hearty welcome to the king of Ulster, and they slept that night in the place, and when Mongan awoke on the morrow, he saw the fifty white red-eared kine, and a white calf by the side of each cow, and as soon as he saw them he was in love with them. And the king of [5] Leinster observed him and said to him: 'Thou art in love with the kine, O king,' saith he. 'By my word,' said Mongan, 'save the kingdom of Ulster, I never saw anything that I would rather have than them.' 'By my word,' said the king of Leinster, 'they are a match for Dubh-Lacha, for she is the one [10] woman that is most beautiful in Ireland, and those kine are the most beautiful cattle in Ireland, and on no condition in the world would I give them except on our making friendship without refusal.'

                "They did so, and each bound the other. And Mongan went home and took his thrice (sic) fifty white kine with him. And Dubh-Lacha asked: 'What are the cattle that are the most beautiful that I ever saw? and he who got them,' saith she, '. . ., for no man got them except for . . . .' And Mangan told her how he had obtained the kine. And they were not long there when they saw hosts approaching the place, and he that was there, even the king of Leinster. 'What hast thou come to seek?' said Mongan. 'For, by my word, if what thou seekest be in the province of Ulster, thou shalt have it.' 'It is, then,' said the king of Leinster. 'To seek Dubh-Lacha [25] have I come.'”  The Conception of Mongán and Dub-Lacha's Love for Mongán 


          "In the time long ago, there was a king whose name was Conn, that had the Druid power, so that when the Sidhe themselves came against him, he was able to defend himself with enchantments as good as their own. And one time he went out against them, and broke up their houses, and carried away their cattle, and then, to hinder them from following after him, he covered the whole province with a deep snow.
          The Sidhe went then to consult with Dalach, the king's brother, that had the Druid knowledge even better than himself; and it is what he told them to do, to kill three hundred white cows with red ears, and to spread out their livers on a certain plain. And when they had done this, he made spells on them, and the heat the livers gave out melted the snow over the whole plain and the whole province, and after that the plain was given the name of Magh Ai, the Plain of the Livers."
XI. Cruachan

          "So when the time came, Cuchulain set out, and his men with him, and they came to a wood near the dun, that had a stream running through it, and he sent word to Blanad he was waiting there. And Blanad sent him back word to come and bring her away at whatever time he would see the stream in the wood turning white. And when what she thought to be a good time came, when all the men of the place were sent out looking for stones to build a great new dun, she milked the three white cows with red ears Curoi had brought away by force from her father, Midhir, into the cauldron he had brought away with them, and she poured a great vessel of new milk into the stream, where it ran by the dun. And when Cuchulain saw the stream turning white, he went up to the dun. But he found Curoi there before him, and they fought, and Curoi was killed, the son of Daire, lord of the southern sea, that had a great name and great praise on him before Blanad was his wife. "

". . .O forester, whose three hundred snow-white bullocks crop the rich cean brakes . . ."  The Georgics of Virgil

". . .save three of them were all white, and one had a black spot. . ."  Le Morte d' Arthur

". . . on pain of forfeit for every penny . . . a white bull with red nose and red ears."          Ceremony at Knightlow Cross

". . . with the white bull from the court of the King . . . Dynevor Castles. . ."  The Lady of the Lake

British White Bull

          References The Irish version of the Historia Britonum of Nennius (Author: [unknown])to the Druids and magical milk of white cows.

          Excerpt:  "Drostan, the Druid of the Cruithnians (Picts), ordered that the milk of seven score white cows should be spilled in a pit where the next battle should be fought. This was done, and the battle was fought by them, viz., the battle of Ard-leamhnachta, in Hy-Ceinnselagh.

          Every one of the Picts whom they wounded used to lie down in the new milk, and the poison of the weapons of the Tuatha Fidhbha did not injure any of them. The Tuatha Fidhbha were then slain. Four of the Cruithnians afterwards died; namely, Drostan, Solen, Nechtain, and Ulfa. But Gub, and his son Cathluan, acquired great power in Eri, until Herimon drove them out, and gave them the wives of the men who had been drowned along with Donn, namely, the wife of Bres, the wife of Buas, &c."

"Brindle cow, white speckled,
Spotted cow, bold freckled,
Old white face, and gray Geringer,
And the white bull from the king's coast,
Grey ox, and black calf,
                                                                  All, all, follow me home," Another of MANY versions of 'Lady of the Lake

". . . Who offers at your shrine
Due sacrifice of milk-white kine, . . ."  Horace: The Secular Hymn, c. 31 BCE - 14 CE

". . .Beside those tents, Stood the sweet-breathing, mournful, slow-eyed kine, With hazel-shielded horns, and gave their milk, Gravely to merry maidens. . ."   and also

". . . Dewy pastures sunset-dazed, At leisure paced by mild-eyed milk-white kine, Smiled them a welcome. . ." Legends of St. Patrick, c. 1872 by Aubrey Thomas de Vere

". . . share the flesh of the white bull sacrificed on the Alban mount. . ."  Golden Bough 

British White Heifer
British White Cattle - Calves

'Tell thou a story now, O woman of the house!' said the youth. 'I will,' quoth she, 'and do thou put down a quarter of the wild boar, and a quarter of the log nuder it,' so it was done. 'I have seven white cows,' said she, 'and they fill the seven keives with milk every day, and I give my word that they would give as much milk as would satisfy them to the men of the whole world were they upon the plain drinking it.' The story was true, and the quarter of the pig was therefore cooked. 'If your stories be true,' said Cormac, 'thou indeed art Mananan, and she is your wife, for no one upon the face of the earth possesses those treasures but only Mananan, for it was to Tir Tairrngire he went to seek that woman, and he got those seven cows with her, and he coughed upon them until he learned (the wonderful powers of) their milking, that is to say, that they would fill seven keives at one time."  MANANAN MAC LIR: HIS MYTHIC CONNEXION WITH THE lSLE OF MAN.

 Mysteries of the Druids by W. Winwood Reade is a very thorough examination of the Druids.  The first page or so may seem a bit tedious or heavy, but if you hang in there you will find highly interesting discussion about the Druids and their continued influence on Christianity today.  You will discover a part of our ancient history as a people in the world today that is often given little regard in modern teaching.   

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