THE breed began when it was noted that a ‘blue’ cow always had a good reputation and was desirable, a fact that still holds today.

Its origins derive from the Welsh Black crossed with a White Dairy Shorthorn and they were originally called the Bakewell Blues, originating in Derbyshire. Recently the ‘blue’ has been dropped in recognition of the black or white Albions that also arise.

W J Clark began the first breed society of blue cattle in 1916, called Clark’s United Breeders. This was later bought by the Blue Albion Cattle Society on January 1, 1921.

The Blue Albion was set to become a major cattle breed of the UK, even winning top milk awards at the Royal Show. But in 1923-24, there was a Foot-and-Mouth outbreak that wiped out many Albion herds. This coincided with a national agricultural depression, which dramatically lowered cattle prices, along with dairy breeds like the Friesian becoming popular at the expense of the dual-purpose breeds.

The last AGM of the Blue Albion Cattle Society was in 1940 and it was officially wound up in 1966. However, a few breeders continued to keep Albions and swapped bulls amongst themselves, breeding true even though they no longer could be registered and this has led to the descendants that we have today.

Albion cow and calf

Albion cow and calf

In the 1980s, as these stalwart breeders started to near retiring age, momentum started to gather to save this lovely breed before it was too late and much research was carried out. The current society was re-formed using a computer database, helping to prevent inbreeding and enabling the breed to be professionally assessed. In 2018, RBST officially recognised the Albions as a rare native breed, and the hard work put in all those years ago has not been lost.

Therefore, 2021 marks the centenary year for the Albion Cattle Society and we have plans to celebrate! We have an open weekend planned on September 18 and 19, going back to our roots around Bakewell, meeting many recent new keepers of Albions who are all excited to have brought their local native cattle breed back to Derbyshire.

We are holding a photo competition of ‘Albions in a scenic background’. Winners of this will have their pictures in the centenary calendar being produced. We are also holding an online silent auction with 50 varied lots, all kindly donated to the society in order to raise money to further the breed with the aim of lifting the breed out of ‘critical’ levels.

Albions need not be a minor breed, they are still dual-purpose and can hold their own in a dairy herd and can be used as a commercial dairy cross, particularly increasing bull calf values. They also make an excellent cross for commercial beef suckler herds, adding more milk and quieter handling traits. With the latest guidance to lower carbon footprints and to support native breeds, Albion cattle could well be a breed worth a closer look.