Yesterday we learnt that the Martins kept Alderneys to provide them with creamy rich milk, and that the keeping of such cattle was not, as Emma suggested an action to be despised.
No, rather in the spirit of the Agrarian Revolution of the late 18th /early 19th century that so influenced the development of farms,estates and the countryside, keeping abreast with new developments in breeds and crops was a positively fashionable thing to do (more on that over the weekend)
Harriet, our reliable little informant, also tells us that Mrs Martin also has
… eight cows, two of them Alderneys, and one a little Welch cow, a very pretty little Welch cow, indeed; and of Mrs. Martin’s saying, as she was so fond of it, it should be called her cow…
Emma, Chapter 4.
I thought you might appreciate a view of a Welch cow. Or, indeed, two of them …
This portrait of two Welch cows called Bethnal and Bran was painted in 1824 by Daniel Clowes (and it can be enlarged by clicking on it in the usual manner)
Daniel Clowes was a very well- thought of animal portraitist from Chester in Cheshire, not far from the principality of Wales, which is of course where Welch( or Welsh) cows originated. The term Welch, of course, is a variant spelling of Welsh.
Welch cattle in Jane Austen’s time were, however extremely varied as a breed and the Welsh Cattle Society was not formed until 1883 when standards were set. But they were favoured for the breed combined good milking ability, quality beef and hardiness –they were able to survive in inhospitable environs and conditions.
Sir Robert Vaughn who commissioned the painting from Clowes, specialized in breeding a dairy strain of Welch cows. These were obviously his dairy cattle in this portrait as a milkman with his buckets for collecting the milk, suspended from a yoke appears in the background. So it is not unreasonable to picture Mrs Martin’s Welch cow looking something like this, for it was obviously also part of her small dairy herd along with the Alderneys.
And what a sweet picture it paints of Mrs Martin’s kindness to a virtually friendless, illegitimate girl with no connections to speak of, to call one of her precious milkers, Harriet’s Own Welch Cow.