The breeding and showing of prize animals is an important part of rural life. Having recently updated the insurance valuation of over 100 silver trophies for a local county show, I am aware of how many prizes there are to be won.
The enthusiasm for country pursuits can be seen in the wealth of pictures and prints. The historic records of these pictures depict the changes and development in our countryside. The judging of cattle is a practice that has existed for hundreds of years. The judges would be looking for characteristics as to milk production, breeding potential and the quality of meat.
In the eighteenth century not only would the breeder collect their trophy, they would often commission an animal painter to record the prize beast. This animal portrait was an important means of recording the breed and advertising to potential buyers and breeders. The print publisher also had a profit motive, as popular prize cattle could sell over 2,000 prints, for as much as three or four guineas a picture. Most prints were produced by the copper engraving method, although woodcuts were often used, and later by developments such as mezzotint or aquatint engraving.
The fashion for today’s collectors is for original historic prints in good condition. At the recent Country House marquee sale of the contents of Leasingham Manor a collection of over sixty lots saw good competition and above estimate results, selling to buyers across the United Kingdom.