An Early Reference to the Welsh Cattle Trade

An Early Reference to the Welsh Cattle Trade

Finberg, H. P. R.

Agricultural History Review, Volume 2 (1954)


How old is the trade in Welsh cattle? According to the standard authority, Wales before the Edwardian conquest was a predominantly pastoral country. It imported iron, cloth, salt, and much of its corn; but nothing seems to be known about its exports? In a paper read some years ago to the Royal Historical Society Professor Caroline Skeel remarked that one of the Welsh words for cattle, “praidd,” is derived from the Latinpraeda, meaning booty. From this circumstance she drew the unkind, but probably not unhistorical, inference that “cattle-lifting rather than cattle-selling prevailed in early Wales.”

She also noted that the word “porthmon,” signifying drover, occurs in Welsh literature as early as the fourteenth century. By that time cattle were frequently being purchased in Wales for royal and noble households; but the earliest date cited in this connection is 1312. ~ It is hardly necessary to point out that occasional purchases of this kind could take place quite independently of any organized traffic that might be carried on at regular markets. But a piece of evidence which I have been fortunate enough to discover in a hitherto unpublished source carries the history of the trade back to the middle of the thirteenth century, and tells us something of the way it was conducted.

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