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The pioneering agriculturalist Robert Bakewell tempts his prize Longhorn with a cake.

'He aimed to produce an animal which would produce twice the amount of flesh on half the amount of food, in the least possible time.'

Peeling masking fluid off my Longhorn.

18th century paintings of fat livestock with spindly legs are beautifully charming. I've always thought that they were the offspring of dodgy observational skills rather than accurate depictions of animals, but it turns out that the breeding of these these vast beasts was once a big trend in Britain.

With an contrasting parallel to magazine retouching, painters were often encouraged tweak the looks of their subjects to look even fatter. Some artists were appalled by this idea and took a firm moral high ground, refusing to alter their images from the reality.

With an contrasting parallel to magazine retouching, painters were often encouraged tweak the looks of their subjects to look even fatter. Some artists were appalled by this idea and took a firm moral high ground, refusing to alter their images from the reality.

'Bakewell wintered his cattle indoors feeding them on root crops and oil cake.'

'Bakewell wintered his cattle indoors feeding them on root crops and oil cake.'

Sketching up some of Mr Bakewell's secret methods

'His exact methods remain unclear, the disapproval of the church causing him to be discreet'

'A vogue developed for the ‘agricultural conversation piece’, where a farmer or landowner chose to be portrayed, not with his wife, children and dogs or horses, but with his livestock and farm employees.'

'A vogue developed for the ‘agricultural conversation piece’, where a farmer or landowner chose to be portrayed, not with his wife, children and dogs or horses, but with his livestock and farm employees.'

A Mr Robert Bakewell, a farmer from Leicestershire was the pioneer behind it all. In response to the country's population doubling he decided to experiment (in secret) with selectively breeding cattle for their fatty qualities.

'Bakewell wintered his cattle indoors feeding them on root crops and oil cake.'

Fat was highly valued at the time and people were extreamly proud of their largest animals.

'Competition to breed the fattest and biggest animals was intense. Bakewell made £1,200 a year from his prize breeding ram Two Pounder, so named because he resembled the shape of a canon.'

pen and ink.

'(Bakewell's) new methods revolutionised the look of British livestock. In 1710, the average weight of cattle sold at Smithfield market was 370lb; by 1795, when Bakewell died, it was 800lb.

The pioneering agriculturalist Robert Bakewell tempts his prize Longhorn with a cake.

References taken from a great article by Elspeth Moncrieff on the fine art of farmyard Britain.