True story of the Durham Ox

MANY pubs bear the name, but what exactly was the Durham Ox? Tomorrow, April 15, is the 200th anniversary of the death of what became one of the most notable celebrities of the North.

In 1796, when the attention of the British was diverted elsewhere by insignificant matters such as a life or death struggle with the French, a bull calf, bred by Charles Colling, was born at Ketton Hall.

Initially christened "The Ketton Ox" it became a national celebrity as "The Durham Ox" when, in 1801, this titanic animal was purchased for the then immense sum of 250 by John Day of Harmston, near Lincoln. Day was something of a showman and he took the beast on a tour of the country in a specially-constructed carriage pulled by four horses.

The interest it whipped up was so great that the ox was on show for a full year in London alone.

To mark the anniversary, a new book by Norman Comben charts the history and progress of this magnificent beast and examines the marketing flair

of John Day in making his animal a legend which lives to this day.

It contains a reprint of "An Account of The Late Extraordinary Durham Ox", a rare 32-page pamphlet written by Day himself and published in 1807.

It was thanks to the cattle breeders in this part of the world that British breeds and other farm livestock came to the forefront of the world arena.

The Colling brothers, Charles, and Robert, farmers at Brampton, were breeding 30 years prior to the setting up in 1822 of the "Coates Herd Book of Improved Short Horned Cattle", the first cattle breeding herd-book in the world.

Thomas Bates of Kirklevington bought a number of his foundation stock, including members of the renowned Duchess family, from the dispersal sale of Charles Colling's Ketton Herd.

A few years later, the Booths were to be leaders among the many who applied the "new thinking" to livestock improvement, a proud local heritage which continues to this day.

John from Killerby and Richard from Studley and Warlaby, near Northallerton worked with the foundation stock bred by their father, Thomas Booth, from Colling cattle.

The print run of the book will be relatively small, between 300 and 500 copies depending on the cost of the project, and it can be ordered in advance from Richard Hodgson (Books) at Manor Farm, Kirklevington, Yarm, North Yorkshire TS15 9PY or 07950 647377.