William McCombie of Tillyfour, Scotland, is considered to be the founding father of the Aberdeen-Angus breed as we know it today. The McCombies lived in the Scottish region of Tillyfour for some hundred-odd years before William came along and began to selectively breed for the all-black cattle he became so famous for. The 19th century saw the introduction of more convenient modes of transportation, such as paddle steamers, which allowed him to bring in animals from all across the UK and subsequently breed for the characteristics he desired. This ultimately culminated in the bull Black Prince, who destroyed the general opinion that a Scotsman and his animal would never champion at the Smithfield Show—an annual British agricultural event—by taking the gold in 1866. He weighed over one ton and had a girth of nine feet and eleven inches.
Black Prince impressed so much that Queen Victoria took notice. She asked McCombie to bring him to Windsor castle for a private viewing, and that winter he gifted her a cut of beef from his carcass. The Queen later went in person to McCombie’s farm in Tillyfour, and was so impressed with the caliber of his animals that she acquired a number for herself. These went on to establish the first Aberdeen-Angus herd at the Royal farms in Abergeldie Mains near Balmoral.
In 1879 McCombie retired, having won the Paris Universal Exhibition the previous year. His stock sale was said to have been the most well-attended agricultural event in living memory.
William McCombie died the following year and was buried in the Tough Kirkyard cemetery in Aberdeenshire. His burial marker reads: “In memory of William McCombie of Tillyfour, for several years Member of Parliament for West Aberdeenshire, who d. 1 Feb 1880 aged 74. He attained a distinguished position as an agriculturalist in rearing and improving the black polled Aberdeenshire cattle earned for himself a high and widespread reputation.”
Post by Kiani Evans