Randall Linebacks are multipurpose animals used for dairy, beef and farm work and historically served as an integral part of rural New England life for several centuries. They are a true landrace breed, descended from unknown European cattle and developed in a specific region (New England) for a specific purpose (production of milk, meat and power). Most of the Lineback population was lost last century through crossbreeding with Holsteins. Randall Linebacks persevered due to the Randall family in Vermont, who maintained a closed herd and refused to crossbreed with Holsteins.
The “lineback” part of the breed’s name describes the characteristic line-backed color pattern. 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. They are a medium-sized horned breed, with cows weighing 1,000 to 1,200 pounds and bulls weighing 1,800 to 2,000 pounds.
Randall Lineback cattle are critically endangered, with fewer than 300 animals distributed among a few herds. The cattle are being closely managed for increasing numbers and the maintenance of genetic diversity. The breed is more secure now than in the recent past, although its survival is still tenuous.
Our farm here at SVF is located in Newport, R.I., in southern New England. Although it is not a particularly rural region, we are fortunate to have 46 acres for our livestock to roam. Several of our pastures border one of the main tourist routes running through historic Newport. This leads to many visitors’ stopping along the road to watch the animals, and in turn lots of interesting conversations.
The Randalls are one of the most striking cattle breeds we have had here at SVF. Their presence has inspired visitors and locals alike to share stories of how often they –used to see these cattle throughout our small state and the rest of New England. Although they are now a critically endangered breed, we hope that increased public awareness and the concern of dedicated breeders will bring Randall cattle back from the brink of extinction.