Ark of Taste
The Randall or Randall Lineback cow is a purebred remnant of lineback-patterned cattle once common in New England. Though the origins of the breed are not clear, it is likely to have originated in New England from a combination of Dutch, English and French cattle. Historically, they were multi-purpose, used for dairy, beef and oxen and served as an integral part of rural New England life for several centuries. The population was not formally organized, except for the brief existence of the Columbian breed association in the early 1900s. Despite its origins as a popular breed, it almost entirely disappeared from crossbreeding with Holsteins.
The name Randall comes from the Randall family in VermontSamuel Randall and his son Everett in Sunderland, Vermontwho kept a closed herd for over eighty years. The Randall herd was one of the few herds not crossbred with Holsteins. After the death of Everett Randall, however, the herd was dispersed and most of the animals were lost to slaughter. Had Cynthia Creech not bought the last surviving Randall Cattle from one such auction and brought them back to her family farm in Tennessee, the entire breed might have died out. Since then, the American Livestock Conservancy has taken great efforts to conserve the breed and increase the population.
Randall cattle are medium size, with bulls ranging from 1,400 to 2,000 pounds and cows ranging from 60 to 1,200 pounds. Variation in conformation does occur, but many of the cows have dairy conformation and well-developed udders. The bulls are large and demonstrate good growth rates. A few steers have been trained as oxen, a task at which they excel. Their unusual color, willingness and ability make them attractive and capable draft animals. Randall cattle are also excellent grazers and maintain good growth rates on pasture.
The cattle are blue-black with a white line down their backs. The roan coloring on their sides varies from almost black to nearly white, with black noses, eye rings, ears, feet and teats. Between the extremes are many animals that are blue roan or speckled. The lineback color pattern is not unique to Randall cattle nor does it define them genetically. The Randall breed is distinct from the American Lineback, which includes any dairy animal with the lineback color pattern. Though the American Lineback registry includes some animals of historic breeding, this population falls short of the genetic definition of a breed.
In a recent tasting, participants described the meat they produce as “seriously beefy”. The ribeye was marbled with a beautiful, yellow fat, had an incredibly sweet fragrance and was tender and flavorful. Randall beef is currently being served in a handful of restaurants in the metro Washington, DC area and has gained acclaim as a flavorful, high quality beef.
While the Randall breed is more secure today than it was several years ago because of the efforts of a few committed breeders and conservationists, its survival is still tenuous. The breed is listed as critically endangered on ALBC’s Conservation Priority List.