Durham Ox

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The Durham Ox was a castrated bull which became famous in the early 19th century for its shape, size and weight. It was an early example of what became the Shorthorn breed of cattle, and helped establish the standards by which the breed was to be defined.


The animal was born in March 1796 and was bred by Charles Colling of Ketton Hall, Brafferton near Darlington in North-East England. Colling, together with his brother Robert who farmed at nearby Barmpton, was one of the pioneers of the cattle-breeding movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. After a visit in 1784 to Robert Bakewell, a successful breeder of Longhorn cattle, Colling began using Bakewell’s techniques to develop and improve the Shorthorn breed. The animal eventually known as the Durham Ox was the grandson of Colling’s original bull “Hubbach”, and became known as the Ketton Ox when it was exhibited in Darlington in 1799. It was painted as such at five years old in 1801 by George Cuit of Richmond.

In 1801 the ox was sold to John Day of Harmston, near Lincoln, for £250 (2010: £ ). Day renamed it the Durham Ox and had a carriage specially made to transport it, drawn by four horses. For the next five years it toured with him around England and Scotland, exhibited to the public at agricultural fairs and other events. It proved extremely popular. For most of 1802 the Durham Ox was on show in London, where it is recorded that in one single day admission fees to see it totalled...
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