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History of The Craven Heifer

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Driving around Yorkshire and particularly in the Yorkshire Dales, a pub name which keeps cropping up is the Craven Heifer. This is usually accompanied by a pub sign with a large cow.

I decided to find out a bit more about the origins of the name and found a wealth of information including a piece from the former Dalesman editor Harry J Scott.

The pubs get their name in honour of a cow of legendary size which was born in 1807 on The Duke of Devonshire’s estate and owned by The Reverend William Carr who was the vicar at Bolton Abbey church at the time.

Carr fed the cow relentlessly for five years until it weighed 178 stone. Meaning a new doorway had to be built in the cow shed.

Its monstrous size was measured as having a girth of 10ft 2 inches, a height of 7ft and a length from nose to rump of 11ft 3in. Word spread about the gigantic cow and it was shown at agricultural fairs and shows around Yorkshire and Lancashire. To this day it still holds the record of the largest cow ever shown in England.

Carr sold the cow to another farmer who planned to take her to London, a journey of 73 days in 1812. On the way the farmer got drunk and lost ownership of the Craven Heifer during a bet on a cock fight.

The cow was won by a Huddersfield man who felt the meat would be getting so tough from all its walking that he decided to have the animal butchered and sold the meat for a shieling a pound!

The Craven part of the name comes from a local governmemt district in Yorkshire around Skipton.

A portrait of The Craven Heifer by an unknown artist from 1812 sold at auction in 1913 for £16,250! Also in 2018 a sculpture of the Craven Heifer was produced by the wonderful Whitby sculptress Emma Stothard to celebrate the 160th year of The Great Yorkshire Show.


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