The Gloucester cow – actually, one of them, Blossom – was a part of the introduction of the smallpox vaccine – no, not Lady Montague and her variolation, rather Jenner and his vaccination:
The cow was credited with Jenner discovering the vaccine, as a milkmaid presented with cowpox which was assumed to be from this infected cow’s udder. He took some pus from her pock-mocked hand and scratched it into the arm of young Phipps, the son of his gardener, who became mildly ill, but recovered, confirming that cowpox can be transmitted from person to person. The boy was then scratched with the skin scab material of someone with a mild form of smallpox, and did not fall ill, proving the success of vaccination.
How cool, eh? Certainly, I think it pretty cool that we know the name of the cow. Very British really.
However, the breed is in decline:
Gloucester cows have been named as a “priority” species as the number of herds has halved across the UK due to lack of breeder interest.
OK, why might that be?
Outstanding British cheese is made from the milk of these cows, as it is high in protein and butterfat. Single Gloucester and Stinking Bishop cheeses are made exclusively from their milk.
Well, if the product is good then why wouldn’t more be interested?
These cheeses have PDO (protected designation of origin) status so can only be made from Gloucester Cattle in the local area.
A rare cheese which originated on Gloucestershire farms over 200 years ago. Originally the cheese which was eaten at home, while the harder Double Gloucester was sent away to provide the farmer’s income. In 1994 it was awarded Protected Designation of Origin(PDO) status. It can only be made on Gloucestershire farms which have a herd of Old Gloucester cows.
So here’s a logical construct. The specific breed of cattle is really only good for making these specific cheeses. It used to be that the breed could be raised and milked in any of the 48 geographic (or perhaps 39 historic) counties. Then the restriction was brought in that to make the cheese – the only reason you’d have this breed recall – the cattle had to be in just one of those 48 (or 39) counties.
The number of the specific breed falls given the geographic restriction.
That is, the PDO designation is the thing which reduces the number of Gloucester cows.
Now, whether that’s the whole and true position would require more research. But who would want to bet against that being that whole and true explanation?