The Lynch Lineback Cow
Lynch Lineback cattle are a Canadian landrace originating in Eastern Ontario. Unlike a breed or cultivar, both of which are bred selectively to conform to a particular standard, a landrace is a domesticated variety of animal or plant which has developed locally and has adapted to thrive in its particular environment in isolation from other breeds or species. The origins of the Lynch Lineback are not known precisely, but they are thought to have descended from Gloucester and Glamorgan cattle, two very ancient English breeds which came to North America with the first British colonists.
Lynch Lineback Cow (Photo courtesy of Glenn McCaig)
A ‘Lineback’ refers to an animal with a solid coat colour – usually dark – which has a white top line running along the back from the base of the neck to the end of the tail, and a white underline along the belly. It is a pattern seen on cattle all over the world and is thought to be one of the oldest bovine colourings dating back as far as the Auroch seen in cave paintings from twenty-five thousand years ago.
Lynch Linebacks are triple purpose animals used for dairy, beef, and possessing a good temperament for use as oxen. They are medium sized cattle, black, with a white top line and underline. They have exceptionally tough feet adapted to rocky pasture and an ability to thrive on wild forage. And while they do not produce as much milk as a Holstein, they eat less, retain their lactation peak longer, and are long-lived and productive throughout their lives – as long as twenty years!
Lynch Linebacks on pasture (Photo courtesy of Rob Torr)
These Lineback-type cows were a fairly common sight in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Their popularity was halted by the advent of artificial insemination, which made it much easier for farmers to breed their cows to more popular dairy breeds such as Holsteins and Ayrshires. Subsequently, the Lynch Lineback almost disappeared.
That the Lynch Lineback exists at all can be attributed to the work of one man: farmer Robert Lynch of Mallorytown, Ontario.
“Robert [Lynch] …started to farm on his own in the early 1960’s. He realised that the Lineback cattle he used to milk by hand for his father when he was a boy were disappearing….In an attempt to save the Linebacks, Robert kept whatever cattle he had and did not cross them to any other breed of cattle.” Glenn McCaig, Genesis Spring 2012
Video courtesy of Nick Vinnicombe
Because Lynch Linebacks are hardy and require less feed than larger high production dairy breeds, they are an ideal family cow for small farms and organic dairy operations. A Lynch Lineback Breeders Association has recently been formed with hopes of stimulating interest in this breed.
Lynch Lineback Cattle are currently considered critically endangered.
For more information about the breed: Rob Torr: 416-894-1170
(Sources: “History of The Lynch Lineback Cattle Parts I and II”, Spring 2012 and Spring 2013 in Genesis: The Journal of Rare Breeds Canada)