Saturday, June 26, 2010


In terms of time, the British Blue pedigree of bovines is fairly young.  The breed emanates from Belgium, where they have their Belgian Blues.   In farming circles, the Belgian livestock breeders are quite respected for their development of animal breeds. 

Last year, I saw a British Blue for the first time.  It had walked off with the major agricultural show's first prizes in all classes for the type.  It was a shiny midnight blue/black all over.  It stood about six feet high and appeared to be about seven feet long.  The muscles on the animal were notable in that they appeared to be doubled up.   It was a truly magnificent, powerful lumbering specimen.   During the explanation of the breeding background to his particular animal,   I also learned that the British Blues varied in one major and important aspect, in the farmer's view, to the 'design' that originated from Belgium.  "Look at those legs," I did as I was told.  "Our [British] Blues have good legs at all four corners; those are a good straight solid, strong leg at the back end, the kind we like and one that supports the beast.  They are not a Queen Anne Leg". 

Up to that point, I had ogled the bull's body, admired its musculature,  its four firm and straight legs at its four corners, but  now, my mind raced to the picture conjured up  by antique shapely, rounded and curved legs.  How on earth could an animal of the proportions I had seen,  firmly and steadily set its weight on anything like an antique furniture leg! 

The farmer talked as if the beast was a family pet.  His son, for example, used the bovine as a back rest in good weather,  while sitting out in the fields studying up for his school exams.  On the other hand, there had been lots of enquiries and the bull was going to be used for breeding both by natural methods and by artificial insemination.  I reckoned junior's study days curled up comfortably with his mate, were numbered.

This year at the show, the British Blues were to be seen in greater numbers,  also, there were more colour finishes in evidence and a number of Blues that looked like a work in progress.  To my surprise, and remembering my lesson in British bovine design tastes from last year, I saw  there were a number of British Blues that without a doubt, sported at their back ends, Queen Anne style legs.


Anonymous said...

you learn something new every day...cows with Queen Anne's legs, amazing!

i'll make a point of noting bovine legs in future although i hardly know one breed from another, i'm afraid.

i do, however, like seeing old paintings and illustrations of bygone animal breeds that were farmed centuries ago.

ZACL said...

May I add to your comment that it was bulls and cows that have the particular design of legs. I wonder if it will give new meaning to being legless.

There was one feature in lots of old paintings of animals; many of them were stylised, much as their human sitters could be. There are a number of depictions of the movement, the running legs of the horse shown, for example, and those that did were incorrect.

I would hope that farming stock would be more accurately depicted when standing still.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to this post I shall give any cows legs that I see from now on more than a passing glance! Flighty xx

ZACL said...

Do include the bulls too, Mr F. A large number of the animals I viewed, were bulls, with one or two farmers advertising their bull's semen for sale. Actually, now I come to think of it, those stalls, did not have prize-winning cards or rosettes. The ones that did, had no need to advertise. Last year's winner, the one with legs at all four corners, secured massive interest without extra advertising.

I am delighted that you will have increased awareness of livestock features to gaze at on your excursions into more rural England.

;) XX

Anonymous said...

i've just remembered that i once saw a traditional old English breed of pig, although and took little notice of his legs, but he was an absolutely enormous black & pink beast...quite magnificent to behold!

ZACL said...

I wonder if your pig sighting was a Lancashire Old Spot. I am no expert on pig breeds, though, like you, I have occasionally seen some roaming about in fields, a free range arrangement rather than escapees. How would artists in previous centuries depicted them; probably stock still, heads down appearing to be snuffling with snouts in the ground.

It is worth looking at some of the old masterpieces, if they are on show, where animal legs in motion are displayed

Anonymous said...

i must admit that no great works of art depicting a humungous pig in motion springs to mind, which is not to say that one doesn't exist, of course.

ZACL said...

Your reply made me giggle. I haven't seen a humongous pig sprinting depicted in aged oils either. I must admit, I was thinking more in terms of horses, I think sometimes a dog or two, (hounds, what else).

Do you think there may have been pot-bellied pigs around in days of yore?

I do know what wouldn't have been around in days gone by, to be painted or anything else, and that is Belgian or British Blue bovines. Queen Anne legs would have been.

Anonymous said...

i'm still not entirely certain that Queen Anne would be too flattered to discover her legs had been inherited by lowly cattle.

there were no medieval pot-bellied pigs in Europe as far as i know, only in the Far East, i think.

ZACL said...

Honestly, you really made me laugh. Would anyone have dared quote anything but an elegant leg as a Queen Anne? Even the shape we refer to as her legs, would have been decidedly bandy, desirable of a large hoop under a voluminous dress, to hide the 'elegance'. So, to answer my own question, the answer would have to be definitely 'no' to offering up this artistic licence to Queen Anne herself. It would take a foolhardy person to do so.

I wonder though, what Queen Anne thought of the leggy designs that have been given her esteemed monica.

Anonymous said...

she no doubt wonders, wherever she is now, why everyone makes such a fuss over Betty Grable's shapely pins whilst her own are consigned merely to grunting livestock and worm-eaten furniture.

ZACL said...

There's a simple answer to the Betty Grable - v- Queen Anne legs memories, the visibility of legs with shorter skirts in the celluloid archives. I cannot think of one picture showing her erstwhile Majesty's actual legs, can you?

But yes, being remembered by posterity for a particular shape of leg attached all sorts of items, including huffing and moo-ing and grunting livestock, is a curious honour.