Breed History

The Irish Moiled is one of the oldest of the surviving indigenous breeds of Irish cattle and the only surviving domestic livestock native to Northern Ireland.

The myths and legends of Ireland refer many times to ‘red, white backed cattle’ and polled (hornless) skeletal remains have been dated to 640 A.D.  It is believed that the Vikings raided Moilie cattle from Ireland in around 1000AD and today in Scandanavia you can find hornless cattle with similar colour markings to the Moilie in a breed called the East Finn.

Irish Moiled circa 1952 ( E. Boston)
Taken from 'Extracts of Volume One, Irish Moiled Herd Book' 1930

The breed was popular throughout Ireland in the 1800’s on a wide variety of habitats but thrived on the ground of the hill farmer particularly in the ‘drumlin’ country of South Ulster. However with the introduction of more specialist dairy and beef breeds numbers began to decline. 

The decline in numbers was slower in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the island but even here by the late 1970s the pedigree herd numbered only thirty breeding females and two bulls, maintained by only two breeders.  In 1979 the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) recognised the Irish Moiled as endangered and placed the breed on its ‘critical’ list.  Enthusiasts began to work actively to revive the breed and their efforts have been rewarded ensuring that the Irish Moiled remains part of our proud agricultural story.  

Further Reading

Origin and History of Irish Moiled Cattle

Extracts from Vol 1.- A copy of a booklet produced by the Irish Moiled Cattle Society in the 1930’s

 A step back in time… Extracts from the I.M.C.S Minute Book- An article by Sam Smiley on the formation of the Irish Moiled Cattle Society

Extract from ‘On the Modern and Ancient Races of Oxen in Ireland’ by William Wilde (father of Oscar Wilde from Roscommon) Presented to the Royal Irish Academy in 1858

“The fourth is the Maol or Moyle, the polled or hornless breed, simular to the Angus of the neighbouring Kingdom, called Myleen in Connaught, Mael in Munster and Mwool in Ulster. In size they were inferior to the foregoing (Irish longhorn), although larger than the Kerry or even the old crooked horned Irish, but were comparative few in number. In colour they were either dun, black or white, but rarely mottled. They were not bad milkers, were remarkably docile and were consequently much used for draught and ploughing.”