Black Knight

Black Knight is a short story about the old Time great Aberdeen Angus bull Black Knight, written in 1904 by Charles S. Plumb, B. Sc., Professor of Animal Husbandry, Ohio State University. This bull played a great part in the early history of the Angus breed of Beef Cattle. This story rescued from the public domain.

     Among the really great Aberdeen-Angus herds of cattle that have been in existence in the United States was that of T. W. Harvey of Chicago at Turlington, Neb. The development of this herd began along in the early ’80s, and William Watson, familiarly known as “Uncle Willie,” a son of the famous Hugh Watson of Keillor, Scotland, was herd manager during the most interesting part of its history.

     Black Knight 4751 (5887) was bred by Gudgell & Simpson of Independence, Mo., And was calved on Oct. 30, 1883. His sire was Knight of St. Patrick (2194) 354, and his dam Blackcap (4C42) 1552.  The importance of this parentage of Black Knight is first worthy of consideration.  His sire, Knight of St. Patrick, was a great show bull in Scotland and America. He was bred by R. C. Auld, Bridgend, Scotland, and in 1881 won the Highland and Agricultural society silver medal as the best bull at the Leochel-Cushnie Agricultural society show in Scotland. Soon after, in 1882, he was imported to America by Gudgell & Simpson of Independence, Mo. Thereafter his merit as a show bull became manifest.  In 1882 he was first in class at Minneapolis and St. Louis, and was also sweepstakes bull at the latter show. He also headed the herd of five cows that won first place at Minneapolis and St. .Louis for being the best polled herd, while at Kansas City he headed the best herd of any breed. In 1883 Knight of St. Patrick was first in class at Minneapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City and St. Louis, and sweepstakes bull at the latter show. He also headed the herd which won first at Minneapolis and St. Louis as the best polled herd, and was first at Topeka, Kan., as the best herd of any breed.

     Knight of St. Patrick was out of Pride of Aberdeen 10th (3250) 355, and was a grandson on both sides of Pride of Aberdeen 5th 356, a daughter of the famous Paris show cow Pride of Aberdeen, shown by McCombie. Thus Knight of St. Patrick, as a result of inheritance, deserved to be a great show bull and breeder, and this inheritance he transmitted to his son Black Knight. Blackcap, the dam of Black Knight, was the most noted cow in the herd of Gudgell & Simpson, and was a most unusual breeder. She was bred by Sir George MacPherson Grant at Ballindalloch, Scotland, and cost Gudgell & Simpson $2,050. Not only was she regarded as one of the very best cows in the Scotch herd, but Gudgell & Simpson thought her the best cow by far in their herd. She was out of Blackcap of Corskie 3d, 733, and was four generations from Lady Ida, from whom the Blackbird tribe derived its foundress.

     T. W. Harvey purchased the subject of this sketch from Gudgell & Simpson for $2,000, and he was taken to Turlington early in 1886 by Mr. Watson, wnen he began service there.

     Black Knight was not purchased for the show ring, but for the breeding herd, and as a sire he made his fame. As an individual, however, he was a fine type of the breed, and is described as low, deep and thick, with back, loin and quarter covered with a thick layer of flesn most smoothly laid on. He also had a well-developed crest and a beautiful head, while as a whole he was stylish and possessed much quality and finish.

The real, transcendant fame of this bull came in 1893 as a result of the Angus show at the World’s Columbian Exposition.  Three daughter of his, Abbess of Turlington 9327, Progress of Turlington 7116, and Heather Bloom of Turlington 7117 were placed in one, two, three order in the aged cow class. Abbess and Progress were veritable sensations. In its review of the Angus show or this occasion the correspondent of the Breeder’s Gazette wrote: “These two marvels of the cattle breeder’s art can neither be adequately described nor satisfactorily delineated. The readiest of writers and the cleverest of artists may strive in vain to convey to the minds of those who have not seen the animals any clear-cut conception of their character. They are as fine and neat as they are big; as wide as they are low, as thick at the ends as in their middles, as round and full and deep and smooth as nature’s laws allow in the cattle kind.

     Besides these, Heather Lad 2d 7965, a son of Black Knight, out of Rosa Bonheur of Turlington, at 6 years old was first in class at the Columbian exposition. This bull was bought at auction by Wallace Estill of Estill, Mo., for $465, and was regarded as one of the great Angus bulls of America. He became a great breeder, being the sire of Gay Blackbird 1443, third prize 2-year-old at the Columbian, a most excellent bull, and numerous others. In fact, over three-fourths of the first prize winners at the Columbian exposition were sired by Black Knight or his sons.

     At the Turlington sale Wallace Estill purchased Abbess for $825, and she proved to be a most excellent breeder.

     Rumor has it that Leslie & Burwell offered the equivalent of $4,000 for Progress, which was refused. Both of these cows were very large, weighing in show ‘form about 2000 pounds or more each.  Black Knight died June 20, 1891, at 8 years of age, and forty-eight hours preceding his death was in perfect health.  His last calf was a bull, Proud Black Knight 16738, calved on Oct. 26, 1891. His loss was so keenly felt by Mr. Harvey that he remarked that he would rather have sunk $10,000 in the sea than put Black Knight under ground, for on him he based much of his success as an Angus breeder.

     So high were the offspring of this bull valued by Angus breeders that during the last four years of his life eighteen heifers ranging in age from 6 to 18 months, realized an average of $425 at public sale, while nineteen bulls of similar age averaged $300. Among these sons were Heather Lad 2d, Guido Knight, Keillor Knight and Keillor Knight 2d, all of very superior merit. At the time of Black Knight’s death there were thirty heifers from 6 months to 4 years old sired by him on the farm at Turlington.

     Blackcap Judy 40226, the sensational first prize calf at the International Live Stock Exposition of 1900, later sold at $6,300, the record price Angus female at public sale, was out of Blackcap 2d 4752, a full sister of Black Knight. Waterside Blackcap, another full sister, sold to Geary Bros, at public sale for $2,000.

     With the Blackbird one of the highly valued of Angus tribes, it will be clearly seen that the importance of the influence of Black Knight on the breed cannot be easily overestimated. Many of the most popular favorites of the show ring of today trace back four to six generations to this great sire. How shall we measure his greatness? By the opinions of men as influenced by the character of his descendants.  These, in this day, it may be fairly said, designate Black Knight “the greatest Angus bull America has produced.”