A CRITICALLY endangered breed of Irish cow has been granted special status.
The Droimeann cow has been granted the status of Native Rare Irish Breed by the United Nations’ Farm and Agriculture Organisation.
Known for their distinctive white streak and white diamond of hair between the hind legs, the Droimeann appears prominently throughout much of Ireland’s early literature, songs and folklore.
However, its numbers have dwindled in recent years, with records indicating just 243 breeding females and 23 males reside on the island of Ireland at present.
It is hoped that the granting of rare breed status to the Droimeann will serve as an incentive to Irish farmers to help preserve the breed.
Announcing the news, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said:
"This announcement opens the door for farmers to access additional financial assistance through various agri-environmental schemes administered by the department.
"But, more importantly perhaps, it also recognises the dedication and commitment of a handful of farmers to a distinctive breed of Irish cow."
"Droimeann breeders have shown themselves to be very diligent in their role as custodians of this breed over many years," he added.
"While numbers of these animals are very low, and can be considered 'at risk’, I am confident that the dedication of the Droimeann Cattle Society will allow numbers to increase in the coming years."
The Droimeann was granted Native Rare Irish Breed status after DNA profiling confirmed it was unique, based on the genetic distance from other breeds.
It joins the Dexter, Kerry and Irish Maol as one of four cow breeds to be handed Native Rare Irish Breed status.
The move marks the first time in 15 years a breed has been approved as native and rare.