As a tribute to Bill and Eileen Lamont and Mary Lindsay, and in order that the facts about the Speckle Park are recorded by those who first raised these interesting cattle, the following people have assembled this information:
We cannot expect this breed to have less problems than any other while being developed, as most problems are caused by man. Time, patience, good stockmanship and some good luck should gain recognition for this breed.
A little more history; some odds and ends.
Before it is too late, those of us who have the facts should write down as much as we can. What follows now is the history of the original herd names or prefixes in the Speckle Park herd.
Eileen Lamont said they used "William" and "Eileen", presuming that some people would name cattle after them anyway!
The Dan and Joyce Lamont family didn't choose a herd name but the youngest son did so. He chose "Dunoon", a name from where the Lamont's originated in Scotland, and he kept meticulous records.
Edward and Shirley Melchior made their herd name from the middle names of their three children; Gregory Allan, Tracy Ann and Dalyce Leigh, thus "Al-Ann" and "Leigh-Al-Ann".
Christine Pike used the farm name "Strathdene" a name the family brought from the U.K. The name is Scottish and means "on a hill in the valley."
At the start, Edward and Victoria Ralston with Raymond and Debbie Ralston went under "Double R". When each couple went on their own they became respectively "Thunder" and "Lightning" and "Deb-Ray."
Unfortunately, most of the genetics of their herds were lost; - this should not have happened but it did.
John and Dale Herbert chose "Spots and Sprouts" for obvious reasons.
Ed and Kathy Smith had "Aspen Acres" for their 160 acres of wooded property.
And these were the original herds.
Look, however, at photographs of original Speckle Park animals, Compared with some seen in fields today. Those early animals had strong, straight backs, good feet, depth.
When someone gets something good, and then tries to "re-design" it, especially with livestock, it makes one think of what Groucho Marx said,
"You've improved it worse."
A fancy hide and a quiet disposition isn't enough, but let us hope there will still be good animals to carry on the original lines.
A short note on an earlier herd name. Bill Dilabough had a few Speckle Park in those days. In the Bible we can read how Jacob put speckled branches where the cattle drank so they would have speckled calves, which he could then claim. At times, in an extended pedigree, there can be seen a bull by the name of "Jacob" or a cow named "Rachel", wife of Jacob, as named by Bill Dilabough.
And now some anecdotal history. When Bill recounted how they had bought semen from the fine black Angus bull "Big M" (Biffles Emmulus) and had not been told he carried the red gene until the calf was born red and white of the insemination, they called that fine bull calf "Red Snake Oil". Could it indicate that they thought the seller of the semen was a "snake-oil" salesman?
Although "Red Snake Oil" does show up in an extended pedigree, the fact is that Bill soon shipped him because of the red gene. Pity!
After that, having used the best BLACK Angus they could, they bred Speckle Park to Speckle Park.
The "Pussycat" line came about as follows:
Mary Lindsay wanted Bill to take a certain "blue" and white speckled cow which was a little larger than the others. That cow was also quite a heavy milker and Mary said to Bill in jest,
"Och! She must be a Holstein!"
Bill understood her line, it seemed others did not when the story was repeated to them.
But Bill did as Mary had done; he took some milk from that cow until the calf was big enough to take it all. That cow went to someone else who perhaps couldn't be "bothered" to milk her and as a result, two quarters of her udder were ruined. She was the mother of the first "Pussycat" bull, whom Lamont's thought would go well with certain cows, although the Pussycats had a narrower face.
The sire was the bull known as "Speckle Post".
One breeder was told by someone that the narrower face indicated Holstein blood and the person who made that claim repeated Mary's joke as though it were a fact.
As a result the breeder, who had used an early Pussycat bull, sold all t he resulting calves.
Why did he not go to Bill and Eileen and ask them about it?
The moral is "Be careful that you do not repeat jokes to people who cannot understand!"
If a bloodline shows "Spotted Milk Cow" that was Mary's "Blue Cow", who actually wasn't a household milk cow but a cow who produced milk too well!
The first Speckle Park ever on public display were taken by Bill and Eileen to the World Plowing Match in 1986 at Olds, Alberta. There was genuine interest from visitors and although it was an effort to do all these ventures on their own, they had great faith in their cattle.
And another first. Because of her experience with recording cattle for Jestamere Farm, the late Dorothy (Burden) married to Bill's cousin Jim Buchanan, did up the first records for the Lamonts with a drawing in pencil by Eileen, a professional artist, as a background on the papers.
Cow No.6 has her photograph reproduced on the Speckle Park caps.
Bill and Eileen chose her image because she had good feet, a good udder, a strong back, and a slightly dished face.
She had a good disposition and she had substance.
No.6 was sired by Spotted Bull A, out of a black Speckle Park cow.
That black cow's dam was Speckle Park cow No.2, and her sire was the Angus bull (black!) Clover Lake Revolution 5W.
Some Bill Lamont Quotes
"To build slowly until the cattle built their own reputation looked to me like the only way to go. To take them to (a certain large show) too soon is like putting a pony in the Derby just to amuse the crowd."
Although very experienced stockmen had won with Speckle Park steers at The Royal, Bill nevertheless knew that not everyone could do that, in the early years of the breed, due to lack of the experience needed to make a good presentation.
"We had cattle with good feet and good udders because all along we had been particular about such things."
"Some people's egos are far above their abilities."
"It takes a lot of work to get a good image back."
"I guess it's not a crime to trust another person."
"Success for some people, depends on being well known; for others it depends on never being found out."
And from Eileen Lamont:
"Why did people buy cattle from us because they liked what they saw - and then try to change them?"
We read too many items which start "The story goes" or some such lead-in and then we see the claim that Speckle Park cattle came from "purebred Shorthorn bred to White Park bulls" and they were brought by the Barr Colonists "around 1903-04"
Research, research, research! Why is it that people prefer "the story goes" instead of doing research?
And "historically significant animals?"
Yes,- but not because they followed a green-grocer from Sheffield down the gang plank of the S.S. Lake Manitoba!
Clarification on White Part Cattle and British White Cattle:
The earliest records of White Park cattle were found in Wales and Ireland in the fifth century B.C. This breed had long, curving horns and black, sometimes red, points.
The first records of British White Cattle were from Lancastershire, England, 1697. They are a white, polled breed with grey skin under the hair. They have black, sometimes red, points.
According to the Rare Breeds Trust of Great Britain, whose patron is the Prince of Wales, no British White cattle have been imported to Canada from Great Britain. White Park cattle were imported to Canada in 1941.
The Rare Breeds Trust encourages pure breeding of rare breeds. A rare breed of cattle would have less than 750 breeding females. Actually, a breed is under the At Risk category when it has less than that many, so pure breeding is of the greatest importance.
I always admired a bunch of well marked Hereford cattle, better so if there wasn't any off colour ones among them. Or how about a great bunch of roan Shorthorns? Nicer still if they were all roan and sort of the same pattern and shade of roan. No body can honestly say a bunch of reds don't look nice, because I've seen herds that certainly did look good.
Some time in the early 1950's we had a young pinto stallion that we had raised ourselves. He was later to be used as a saddle horse gelding. In the meantime, Mary Lindsay of Greenstreet, Saskatchewan had sent a pinto mare down to be bred to this horse. She was in foal at the time for a very late colt, although you sure couldn't tell from looking. If I remember correctly, she did not get bred again that fall. Anyway, Carl Alton, the fellow who brought her down for Mary, was telling me about Mary's Highland cattle. I learned from him that she also had a few purebred black Galloway cattle. The next fall a fellow from Southy, Saskatchewan, Bernie Gaschler, was in to visit us and mentioned that he'd like to pick up a young Galloway bull or bull calf. Mary said for us to come up early the next morning and she'd have the Galloways in from pasture. We were there real early, but the Lindsays had already had breakfast and also got breakfast for us. They made sure we stayed in the house until the cattle were corralled. They had to come right by the house and they didn't want us going out to look and maybe spook them. I wanted to get a Highland heifer, but they didn't have that many. The fellow from Southy got his Galloway bull calf and I was able to get a long-haired brown heifer, so that gave me something new to look at!
Mary's interesting colored cattle stayed on my mind, so I was back there the next fall and on that trip I discovered her Angus bull whom she called 'Old Murph'. He had come from the herd of Albert Murphy of Altario away to the south of us. He had the heavy loins and "hams" I'd been looking for and Mary said she'd let me know when she was finished with him, but it probably wouldn't be for another year. On one of my visits to Lindsays', I had seen amongst her various spotted cattle, a black and white one to which I took a fancy. That black and white spotted one stayed on my mind a long time and later I was able to get one, mostly black with a white tail and a white underline, but not quite as colored as I wanted. Later when I took my wife, Eileen, up to Lindsay's to see 'Old Murph', there was a black and white cow and calf in a pen with some other cattle. That cow and calf were so nervous that we dared not go close enough to look, for fear she would jump the pen! Mary said she wouldn't sell me that one because she was so wild she would have to be shipped. Well anyway, we let that one stay there. (above picture: field of Speckle Cattle, September 2000, click for larger view)
At that time, I was not interested in the latest fad of breeding long and tall cattle. To me, these long, tall ones were always hard keepers and not the kind I wanted. I also hated the sight of them, for instance, if they had too much clipping done under the belly and chest to make them look longer legged. Also, if you bought a bull that had his hooves trimmed, you were asking for hoof trouble in your breeding program. The ground in a pen and the kind of ground a bull walks on has a lot to do with the kind of feet he is walking on. Some cattlemen would not touch their feet until you had made a deal and then they would trim them to suit you before you turned the bull out to pasture. I guess these honest, old cattlemen are getting fewer, but you can still find some around! We had some very good footed cattle among out early Speckle Park cows. Some fellows used to remark on their good feet and their good range udders. I had one cow with too large an udder and she'd have trouble when the sloughs were full in the spring; dragging her bag through the mud which made the teats sore and chaffed and unable to nurse a calf. About that time we had some Speckle Park cows with some very good udders and the best of feet. We tried for a well proportioned animal with a balanced look. This is exactly what Mary Lindsay's bull, 'Old Murph" was. Later, when I took a steer to the butcher, Doug Staniforth, who had a butcher shop just east of Maidstone, he said it was one of the best balanced beef he had ever handled. He remarked on how the beef itself was balanced as to fat and lean, being just right. He also asked, "Why didn't you keep him for a bull?" That is what gave me the idea to call them the "balanced beef breed". This is not meant as a slur to any other breed. They were balanced for build as well as the beef itself. A fellow shouldn't have to knock any other breed of cattle in order to advertise his own. The cattle today might not be marketable tomorrow. Trends change pretty fast and new ideas drift by as fast as snow in a blizzard. We can admire our own cattle and do the best we know how, but I don't expect every other cattleman to beat a path to our door!
I'd been told many times, "You'll never make a breed out of these cattle." Well, the hardest part about making up a breed of livestock is the people. Just when you get it all figured out, some new upstart comes along and wants to change it to suit their own purpose. This causes a lot of hard feelings and gets us nowhere. People will spend a lot of money and come up with the damnedest ideas; all in the name of promotion. The best promotion there is for livestock is that care they get at home, such as the old feed bucket! Also, I find it works best if you don't start trimming them with a set of clippers; a wee pair of snips can instead work wonders. (picture above: Strathdene Bevan 3G, Sire - Dancing Spirits Ben 1B (#A10) / Dam - Strathdene Nora Dunoon 1A (#384) now owned by Ed and Shirley Melchior, click for larger view)
Before we got together to form an association, I wrote out a few simple basic rules to go by and eventually made it into a constitution. To this very day I can't see why anyone would join an association and immediately try to change the rules! I had been in other horse and cattle associations so I had a bit of experience in what would and wouldn't work. I also had time to think of it all as I was accumulating more cattle of the right kind. I knew for a fact that to charge too much for a membership was cutting out the little guy with only a few cows and maybe farther off the beaten path. I think it is up to each individual to pay for his own advertising. Why should all membership pay to put on a show on "Mr. Big Wig's" doorstep? This is one of the hardest things to get across to people that live in a good spot on a good road. One of the first rules was to keep membership and registration fees all under $10.00. If that can't be done, then we have to cut expenses. As one lady told me, "What's the use of having fancy papers for a calf born dead?." I agree with that.
Mary Lindsay had referred to her own cattle as 'linebacks', but I especially like the ones where the white line opened up over the loins and left them spotted over the hips. We tried different names as a breed name and the name "Speckle Park" seemed to fit the best. Eileen had sketched a cow on the record papers that also showed the pattern of black and white as an idea. If they do go back to Park cattle from the British Isles, they might as well have "Park" in their name. As Mary Lindsay would say, "We only surmise they go back to Park cattle because of the colour pattern." (right picture: Leigh-Al-Ann Belle 2B (#468) - Age Two Years, picture taken at Melchior Pasture, click for larger view)
I came across a picture of a young animal in the magazine Country not long ago and it called the animal a 'Lineback'. It was very similar to our own stock. There was also a small herd of Linebacks advertised in a rare breeds magazine, somewhere in Massachusetts. There was also a meeting of Lineback breeders held in Trasburg, Vermont. I think this was likely in 1986. No relation to Mary's cattle, as Mary had started her line many years before.
I had taken a copy of our Speckle Park record papers up for Mary's approval and she seemed to think it was okay so we went on with it. As she would say, "lineback" was a dirty word to some Hereford breeders. I personally don't think they should be crossed with some of the coloured breeds. Even some Charolais cattle do have quite a distinct white line down their backs and sometimes a white tail. Remember here, I said just 'some of'. I worked away at this for years by myself using the best Angus I could afford to get.
A cattle promoter, Lloyd Pickard, from Olds, Alberta, took quite an interest in them. He also sent a half a dozen vials of semen from the great Angus bull, 'Big M', or Biffles Emulous. I was able to get my best cow in calf with that semen, but darn-it-all, the calf was born red and white. I learned later that the bull, 'Big M', had red genes in his breeding. I used that bull a bit, but was getting too many red and white calves.
We had worked up to about thirteen head of Speckle Parks after about thirteen years of trying. I went out to the pasture one time and on the way I discovered three dead, good marked cows on the road. Another farmer had rented some crop land fairly close to our pasture and had been combining wheat in the dark; of course when he pulled the combine into the bin, the door boards had never been put in, so the wheat ran all over the ground. I hadn't even known that a few of our cows had been getting out as this was after we had moved down near Maidstone. That set us back a few years with our numbers, but we carried on. Later, Mary wrote me to come by if I had room for any more cattle. They had run Dave Lindsay's Galloway bull in with a bunch of spotted cattle and Mary was able to sell me about six or seven heifers. So that is where the Galloway blood got into the herd. There were at least four of these, which made very good cows and I was proud of them. The best looking one would have a calf every second year. She would not cycle when feeding a calf. Of course, after the calf was weaned, she would come in heat. Somewhere in the Galloway breed you will find cattle marked very similar to some of our own. Check the cover of the 1991 edition of the Galloway Advance. (picture above: Strathmere Cows and Calves: owned and raised by Maureen Bexson and the late Rusty Bexson)
Dave Lindsay phoned me quite early one morning. This must have been before 1959 as we still lived on the Gully farm North of Maidstone. He said Mary needed an Angus bull as soon as she could and did I have anything? I said yes, I had one out with some cows two and a half miles from home. Dave said he'd bring the truck down after dinner. I warned him with, "He's no great shakes for a bull, Dave." "Well, you used him didn't you?," Dave shot back. You had to know the Lindsay sense of humour to enjoy that remark! Well, me and my horse, Seagull, brought that bull home and I followed on foot with a small tree. It was quite a procession; a fast walking horse, a slow walking bull on a lariat and a tired, young man with a big stick. But we did get home in time for the truck.
After I showed Mary the form for recording the cattle with the thought to registering them, I remember her remarks very well: She smiled, I think she was pleased, but she also said, "Billy, you'll likely run into all kinds of grief that you haven't even thought of." How right she was! It was after that we lost some and got the part Galloway calves from her, but that isn't the kind of grief Mary meant. I think then she was ready to fill me to the ears with the sort of people we would be dealing with and the different personalities each of us would be trying to compensate for.
In the late 1970's, Mary wrote for me to come and see her as she had made up her mind to sell all of her cattle. She wanted me to take all 49 head. I said I would take all her black and white ones. She said, "You'd do well to take them all". So I finally agreed to do that. That's what Mary wanted so that's what we agreed to; buy them all. I will not go into details here, but I did get 13 head and due to circumstances not entirely of our doing, none of them ever made it into the records of the Speckle Park Cattle.
Now here is Mary's own story as told to me by her in the Lindsay kitchen in the big house. It was a real treat to me if I ever had time to go up to the Lindsay's and see what they had. Mary would shove the coffee to a hotter spot on the stove and she and Em would take turns visiting with me as they did some chores and housework. Mary would always have something interesting to tell me. It was on one of these visits that she told me where her colored cattle came from. She sat me at the kitchen table, gave me a writing pad and pencil and this is her story, word for word. I still have the copy I wrote that day and this is what it says:
"Sometime back in around 1937, Mr. Lindsay Sr. bought a few head of cattle from Gus Formo in the Tangleflags District, an area northeast of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan; one cow being a strawberry roan lineback and a three-year-old daughter, darker roan, also a lineback, and a year old heifer. Later the cow had a white calf with black ears and a black nose (this cow then is the mother of the heard). Mary kept this cow and raised a bull calf from a Scotch Highland bull (Mary being one of the first importers of Highland cattle from Scotland). In the meantime, her sister, Emma, had bought some purebred Jersey cows from the Mayor of Wetaskiwin. (This could have been C.D. Enman). They used Mary's bull on these Jersey cows and the offspring were sort of yellow roan and were very rich milkers and also showed lineback. Mary bought the heifer calves from Emma and they were bred to an Angus bull and nearly all had lineback spotted calves being black and white, black ears, black skin and black hooves. They, and their descendants, have been crossed with Angus and Galloway ever since. The Lindsay's do have some crosses of Shorthorn and a bit of Highland and some of these crossed back to Angus will produce black and white lineback spotted calves. Dave Lindsay, Mary and Emma, each had some and you will see some white ones with red ears and some with black ears, the main group being black and white with more solid black on the shoulders, ribs and flanks, being spotted on the legs and hips. Sometimes they are spotted all over with the main colour being white or sometimes a light grey-blue". (picture above: Lady of Dunoon 4A - 1994 - Speckle Park Cattle Breeder: Tom Lamont)
Some of you might say, "Why did they do this or why did they use that particular bull?", but we would challenge anyone to attempt to establish a new breed of livestock with no purebred animals on either the sire's or the dam's side. We never expected to make money of this venture, but somewhere along the line, some people will benefit. Aren't we all very lucky that somewhere ahead of us were the people that liked good colored cattle and some of them had a vision and a few ideas. Some very wrong things have been written about Speckle Park. Some have told me so boldly that Mary got them from crossing her Highland and Galloway. It was also written in an Angus Journal that we got them from our purebred Angus. This is not true. Eileen and I made a 400 mile trip to get that printed right, but the writer of that article said he liked his own version of the story better, so that's the one he used!
The great storyteller Louis L'Amour said in one of his many books that when he goes down the last trail, "I know there will be a thousand stories hammering at my skull, demanding to be told." I know that when I go down the last trail there will still be a thousand bits of information about Speckle Park cattle waiting to be told. We now have people that are standing in front of an audience and giving out information on Speckle Park cattle, people who don't even know what they are talking about, telling us how to go about breeding them. Some of these are paid speakers hired by someone else who didn't know beans about that whole situation. It might be alright at this time to thank the early breeders and early members of the association who all helped make the start, approximately ten of us.
We did fine until we were pushed down a badger hole; then the others couldn't or wouldn't hear us. About that time, unbeknownst to us, many of the first members dropped out of the Association (although they continue to raise Speckle Park cattle, breeding Speckle Park to Speckle Park, and are a very dedicated, enthusiastic bunch). Are we the Renegades? No, we were just trying to stick to the truth and we'd like to see expenses stay where the average cow owner could stay in the business.
Now this is how I experienced the saga of the Speckle Park cattle and I wanted the truth to be told.
Testimonials and Letters
Speckle Park steaks have won steak challenges and more recently have won carcass classes.
Congratulations to the breeders; the very original breeders had thought Speckle Park would do well in carcass classes, and feel pleasantly vindicated.