A Rare (and Adorable) Cattle Breed from Vermont Makes a Promising Comeback
July 08, 2022
These beautiful, speckled creatures originated on a Sunderland farm formerly owned by Samuel Randall and his son, Everett Randall. When Everett Randall died in the 1980s, the cattle were sold to other farms, where they lived in less-than-ideal conditions and nearly disappeared. Today, the cattle are considered critically endangered.
-Michelle Porter and her Randall Linebacks in Wardsboro.
But efforts to protect and preserve Randall Linebacks are well underway and making progress. Cynthia Creech rescued the breed in 1987—when only about 15 Randalls were left in existence. Together with farmers Phil and Dianne Lang, Creech started the Randall Cattle Registry in 2001.
Kim Pinsonneault, a farm livestock manager and educator at Hildene’s Dene Farm in Manchester, now maintains the Randall Cattle Registry. Pinsonneault, whose grandmother was Everett Randall’s partner, grew up on the Randall farm and lives there today with a small herd of Randall Linebacks.
-Kim Pinsonneault greets a Randall Lineback at Hildene’s Dene Farm in Manchester.
She says how the Randalls got their start in Sunderland remains an unknown.
“There’s a mystery to how they got here or where they came from,” Pinsonneault says. “When Everett passed away in the early 80s, we had quite a few of them, so they had been here a long time—at least 50 years.”
Pinsonneault says Everett Randall didn’t want to crossbreed and prohibited family members from entering the breed in local agriculture events. He castrated bull calves before selling them at auction and would not allow the cattle to be shown at local 4-H club fairs.
“I go back and forth thinking, did they know the cattle were special?” Pinsonneault says. “I think they knew.”
-Kim Pinsonneault”s grandmother, Ann Montgomery, with Everett Randall.
Raising Randall Lineback Cattle in Wardsboro
Michelle Porter of Wardsboro knows a lot about cows. She grew up on a dairy farm in New Hampshire and studied dairy herd management at Vermont Technical College.
She went on to study welding and worked for a time as a welder for artist Johnny Swing, a high-profile artist in southern Vermont. But a few years ago, she encountered her first Randall Lineback and never looked back.
-Randall Linebacks at Brent Newell’s farm in West Wardsboro.
“They’re giant dogs. They come when they’re called. We brush them and they’re always right there,” Porter says. “The bigger ones pick on the smaller ones and push them around. the smaller ones like to run around and play with each other. They’re cute.”
Porter, who lives on 27 acres with her partner, Dan Urbinati, has six Randall Linebacks with three more on the way. The couple first came across Randalls while picking up mulch bales at a farm in West Wardsboro owned by Brent Newell.
“They look like galaxies with little collections of stars all over their faces,” Porter says. “The fact that they came from Sunderland is pretty cool.”
Explore the Dene Farm at Hildene in Manchester to learn more about Randall Linebacks. For more information, visit hildene.org.
Happy Vermont Podcast
-Michelle Porter and her partner, Dan Urbinati, with their Randall Linebacks in Wardsboro.
In this episode of Happy Vermont, Kim Pinsonneault and Michelle Porter talk about raising Randall Lineback cattle and efforts to revive the critically endangered breed. You can listen to Happy Vermont on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Amazon, and Pandora.