Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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RUNT, n.2 An ox or cow due for fattening and slaughter, a store animal, and hence, as these were freq. of the small shaggy Highland breed, an animal of this breed; also applied to an old cow past breeding and sim. fed for the butcher (Cai. 1825 Jam.; Sc. 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 725; Ayr. 1910; Cai., Bnff., Abd., Per., Wgt. 1968). Also in E.M.E. and Eng. dial., of Scotch or Welsh cattle. [rʌnt] Cai. 1743 J. E. Donaldson Cai. in 18th Cent. (1938) 147:
If he had straw enough for his “runts” (probably what we should nowadays term store-cattle).
Abd. 1760 A. Grant Dissertation 81:
12 runts of oxen to pull a clumsy plough.
Bwk. 1767 Caled. Mercury (25 Feb.):
Forty head of Fat Bullocks and Runts.
Abd. 1794 J. Anderson Agric. Abd. 82:
Working cattle are often sold off lean at the end of seed time at a great discount, and driven to the south of Scotland to be fed upon the grass during summer, and finished off with turnips. These are called runts.
Sc. 1799 in Boswell Johnson III. 360:
The heifers of Scotland . . . when brought to England, being always smaller than those of this country, the word runt has acquired a secondary sense, and generally signifies a heifer diminutive in size, small beyond the ordinary growth of that animal: and in this sense alone the word is acknowledged by Dr. Johnson, in his Dictionary.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man III. viii.:
A few dour lazy driving runts behind.
Sc. 1827 Scott Two Drovers ii.:
Fewer Highland runts to eat up the English Meadows.
Dmf. 1830 Perthshire Advert. (29 July):
Cattle fit for the English market — consisting . . . principally of the Galloway breed, with a few Runts and Irishers.
Bwk. 1876 W. Brockie Leaderside Legends 22:
A better judge o' horse or nowte Neer haunlt stot or helterd cowte, Or aff auld runts' horns filed the nicks.

[Despite N.E.D. s.v., the orig. of this word is pretty certainly Mid.Du. runt, Du. rund, with the same meaning, though the notion of age and toughness has prob. led to association with Runt, n.1, esp. 5.]

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"Runt n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 Apr 2021 <https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/runt_n2>

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