The story of the traditional Lineback is essentially the story of the American melting pot. In the early days of our country’s settlement, people arrived from many different parts of Europe, often bringing their native breeds of cattle with them. Most of these, naturally, were various breeds of the British Isles:
- From Ireland, the Irish Moiled.
- From Scotland, the Ayrshire.
- From Wales, the Glamorgan.
- From England, the Shorthorn, the Hereford, and the English Longhorn.
As the settlers mingled and adapted to their new homes, so did their livestock. Everywhere people farmed there were small populations of genetically distinct cattle, especially adapted to their local conditions. (These populations are now called landraces.) These cattle were nearly always versatile, providing their owners with milk, meat, and draft power.
One characteristic of some of these landraces was their unique color. Few subsistence farmers had the inclination to breed cattle for color, but nevertheless an eye-catching pattern came to the forefront over the years. These cattle were speckled and washed with dark colors across their sides, but along their backs ran a strip of white hair, giving them the name Linebacks.
Unfortunately, multipurpose breeds fell out of favor after World War II. No one needed draft power anymore, and for beef and milk there were specialized cattle that could provide exceptional yields. Versatile landraces such as the Lineback largely disappeared from the scene, preserved only on a few family farms in New England, the upper Midwest, and bordering areas of Canada.
A few breeders kept their Linebacks but crossed them with Holsteins to increase their productivity. A registry was founded in Vermont in 1985 to meet the needs of these breeders and to preserve the unique color pattern. Unfortunately, this has led to a great deal of criticism of the breed, because registration is mainly based on appearance and not on parentage. Most Linebacks today probably have more Holstein than landrace in them.
Nevertheless, the modern Lineback is steadily increasing in popularity, particularly in the northeastern parts of America.
Most Linebacks today are kept in larger dairy herds as pets. They still can earn their keep, however, by providing milk, meat, or draft work.
Because of its diverse background, the Lineback is somewhat variable in the area of temperament. Many are docile, but most seem to be energetically stubborn.
Linebacks are typically hardy cattle with sound structure and few notable health problems.
- Great adaptability.
- Good grazing instinct.
- A nice balance between milk yield and quality.
- Variability in many characteristics.
- Difficult personality for beginners.
- Calving difficulties depending on bloodline.