History of American Milking Devon Cattle

In 1623, two heifers and a bull from north Devonshire, England, were received by a member of the Plimoth Colony. They were the first importation of cattle from Britain, although the Spanish had introduced cattle in the south.

Their immediate value was as draft animals. Cattle from Devonshire had long been recognized in England for their speed, intelligence, strength, willingness to work, and ability to prosper on coarse forage, in a wide range of climates.

In later years, other cattle were imported and contributed to the American Devon, which developed as the ideal multipurpose breed. None could surpass it for draft work; the milk was good for cream and cheese making; and the carcass developed fine beef on poor forage.

The 1868 American Devon Herd Book, Vol. 2, was published in Springfield, Massachusetts. This herd book contained the perfect description of Devon Cattle.

"The late experience of the breeders of Devons only confirms their former opinion of the excellent qualities of the breed, for the three grand objects for which neat stock are kept, namely, milk, work, or beef, and their adaptation to many sections of our country, in preference to any other breed; also that they will produce as much milk, work, or beef, from the food consumed, or on a given quantity of land, as any other breed...The only objection ever presented to the breed, is "they are small;" but we can keep more of them, and that on shorter pastures and coarser food."

In more recent times, the importance of cattle for draft animals has all but disappeared and the Devon has been replaced by high producing dairy breeds like the Holstein and Jersey, with whom it could not compete for quantity.

In 1952, the American Devon Cattle Club decided that the breed had to move into a specialist beef market in order to survive.

At that time, a small group of breeders decided to form a separate association for dairy cattle and maintain triple-purpose stock. That association slowly dwindled, but thanks to their efforts, many of their animals can be traced into the new registry which was re-formed in 1978. This registry represents a gene pool of genuine triple-purpose cattle able to survive and be productive under minimal management conditions in a harsh environment.

Additional resources on the history of American Milking Devon Cattle:

The Study of Breeds in America
by Thomas Shaw. Orange Judd Company, New York; 1905: pg. 163-169.
The full text of Shaw is available on Google Books

New England Cattle: Red Natives of Devonshire Extraction
by Kristina Bielenberg, Old Sturbridge Village, August, 1976.

The Milking Devon - Past and Present
by Drew and Janet Conroy. Published AMBC Newsletter; March-April, 1993; Vol. 10, Issue 2.

Cattle: A Handbook to the Breeds of the World
by Valerie Porter. Facts on File, New York: pg. 63-66.

The Devon Cattle Book
American Devon Cattle Club, 1920

History of the Devon breed of cattle
by James Sinclair, 1893. Albert R. Mann Library, at Cornell University

History of Devon Cattle in England
Based on "Red Rubies - A History of The Devon Breed of Cattle", by Clive Thornton. at the Devon Cattle Breeders Society of Australia

Cattle: Breeds, Management, and Diseases
by W. Youatt and W. C. L. Martin, 1856. New York: C. M. Saxton and Co.
Chapter III, The Middle Horns, The Devons

Farm Livestock of Great Britain
by Robert Wallace, 1923, Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd.
Chapter VI, Cattle -- Devons and Sussex

British Breeds of Live Stock
London: 1927

History of the Rise and Progress of the Devon Breed of Cattle
by J. Tanner Davy, 1869.
American Devon Record, Vol 1, 1881.

Devon Cattle: Their History in America
by James Buckingham
American Devon Record, Vol 1, 1881.

Devon Cattle by L. P. Sisson , in The Breeds of Live-stock by Carl Warren Gay. 1920 Google Books

Sketches of Devon Breeders
by James Buckingham
American Devon Record, Vol 3, 1884.

The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds
By Janet Vorwald Dohner. Yale University Press, 2002 Google Books

The 1904 Year Book of the American Devon Cattle Club

The 1905 Year Book of the American Devon Cattle Club

The 1906 Year Book of the American Devon Cattle Club

The 1907 Year Book of the American Devon Cattle Club

The 1908 Year Book of the American Devon Cattle Club

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