New England Cattle
Randall Linebacks in the 1800s and 1900s

The imported cattle from the 1600s influenced the type of New England cattle that was common until the importation of standardized pure breeds beginning about 1850. After that date, the New England landrace cattle began to decline as they were either crossed out of existence with the new imports, or were replaced outright by them. Remnants of the landrace survived up until the late 1900s, but by then had become rare and peripheral to mainstream cattle production in New England.

The 1800s saw cattle being used for local draft, dairy, and meat production. By far the most important uses were draft and milk. Oxen were widely used in New England as beasts of burden and tillers of the soil longer than in most other parts of America. New Englanders switched to horse drawn implements much later than the rest of the country. The New England cattle were active and strong, but had a reputation for being late maturing. In some areas the cattle went by the name “Cream Pots” in reference to their aptitude for milk production, although the color and type of these cattle is uncertain. This designation had general acceptance in commerce, and these cattle could have eventually become a standardized breed had they not been eclipsed by purebred European dairy breeds that came into America just as the Cream Pots were gaining recognition.

In addition to the Cream Pots was a second breed type based on New England landrace cattle. This was the Columbia breed, which saw local acceptance in the late 1800s and early 1900s as dairy cattle. Columbia cattle were linebacks, but the crisply marked sort with solid colored heads. Columbia cattle were never very numerous, and also eventually lost place to the imported European breeds.

Along with the Cream Pots and the Columbias were numerous poorly characterized local cattle, kept and appreciated for milk production, ox production, and then finally for meat production. These were generally solid red, although colors did vary. Over the years most of the red ones were absorbed into the Milking Devon breed. The other colors tended to fall by the wayside, except in a few herds. In the early days of the American Minor Breeds Conservancy (which later became the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy), the Lineback cattle within this larger local cattle population received a great deal of attention. A few herds of old-type linebacks could be found, and a handful of breeders tried to salvage what was left of the cattle. The linebacks varied from a solid crisp type (typical of Holderness, Columbia, and Pinzgauer breeds, but more widespread in the past) to a flecked and roan type (typical of Witrick, English Longhorn, and Randall Lineback cattle as well as other breeds). The linebacks were named by their distinctive white backs,over a variety of colors including black, red, brown, and others.

One tantalizing detail of the Randall Lineback is the distinctive lineback color pattern. While this pattern is reasonably rare in America, it has a fairly wide distribution in countries that border the North Atlantic and it could have arrived here from a number of sources. Cattle loosely described as “linebacks” are referred to in some colonial records from various of locations, including Massachusetts and Virginia, and cattle of this color may have occurred in many areas in colonial times.

Unfortunately, the distinctive lineback color pattern is dominant, and this means that it transmits readily to crossbred calves. As the 1900s, and especially the final half of the 1900s, progressed it became more and more common for breeders to resort to crossbreeding, generally with Holsteins, and by this means the old original New England landrace type was brought to extinction – with the exception of Samuel and Everett Randall’s linebacks.