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Back from the brink: the farmers fighting to save an ancient Irish Bó Riabhach breed

The Bó Riabhach was once a fabled and numerous breed of cattle, but numbers dwindled to the verge of extinction in 2016 before a group of farmers joined forces to save the ancient Irish bovine

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Darren McLoughlin pictured on his farm outside Gorteen, Co. Leitrim with his Bo Riabhach cattle Bo, Dilly and Magic.  Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Darren McLoughlin pictured on his farm outside Gorteen, Co. Leitrim with his Bo Riabhach cattle Bo, Dilly and Magic. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Darren McLoughlin pictured on his farm outside Gorteen, Co. Leitrim with his Bo Riabhach cattle Bo, Dilly and Magic. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Four years ago, one of Ireland's most ancient cattle breeds, the Bó Riabhach, became functionally extinct.

With little over a dozen animals alive on the island, and a gene pool too small for successful breeding, it looked like this most Irish of cattle breeds was entering its last generation.

But through a combination of determination and scientific innovation, a handful of dedicated breeders have bought the Bó Riabhach back from the brink.