Date: June 2001
Case: The Bigger Than The Byre Cow
Location: Dumfries, Scotland
A short stay at a B&B around Kirkland revealed what at first I took to be a strange optical illusion—-a massive cow, larger than a byre.
It was evening when I looked out of my room window with a view of a the farmyard. The yard ended the foot of the hill. On the hill stood a byre: a three-sided two stalled rectangular wooden structure. On that particular summer’s dusk, the only occupant was a horse, or a pony. I hadn’t noticed other ponies around the area, so I still believe that the one stall held a horse. The other stall was empty.
The cow was so big that I almost didn’t see it at first. And when I did, I most certainly didn’t believe my eyes. The cow, you see, was much bigger than the byre!
The white and black cow stood taller than the byre and appeared just as long. It might have been a massive cardboard cut-out or a billboard, if it hadn’t flicked its tail and moved.
The big Y: Why was this farm animal appearing bigger than the byre and dwarfing the horse?
I kept looking through the window at the huge creature, but even as the light faded, its proportions remained the same. Still, I had no more explanation for the sight other than some sort of optical illusion—-perhaps one caused by a defect in the glass. I was, after all, in an old farmhouse which had been renovated not so long ago.
I, unfortunately, had run out of film, so could not take a photo of this strange phenomenon.
I mentioned the strange sight to A, my hostess and the farmer’s wife. She laughed. “Oh, it’s a Beltie. Most people can’t believe how big they grow!”
More investigation revealed that this region, Dumfries, was famous for its Belted Galloway (affectionately referred to as Belties), a type of beef cattle growing into enormously tasty walking meals. Further observation revealed that the adult Belties were, in fact, as big or bigger than a byre—-highly visible even from three or four fields away, with their distinctive single band of white around their black bodies; the belt for which they are named.
Note: 2001 saw the truly awful outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the UK, with the result that many farmers were forced to destroy much, or all, of their cattle. The Belties took a huge toll and many of those giants weren’t to be seen for a long time. What made it even more heart-breaking, and contributed to the feeling of hopelessness in that region, was that many of the farmers had raised their family pedigrees of Belties for many generations—-agricultural work and stock that could never truly be replaced or compensated.
We can only hope that such an outbreak never happens again, so that Belties, and other agricultural rarities, may still exist well into the future–to both sustain us and fill us with awe. If you’ve seen a giant Beltie, be grateful. If you’ve spotted one recently, be sure to let us know.
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