The American Farmer
Editor Charles L. Flint

The American Farmer. Volume 2, ©1883, pages 14-23

THESE beautiful cattle date hack to great antiquity; in fact, there is no well established breed in this country or England that dates back so far. It is claimed by some writers that they were known in England at the time of the Roman invasion. Be this as it may, their origin is involved in obscurity, and the blood of no other known breed can be traced in -therm They are of beautiful form and color, admirably adapted to hilly countries and scant pasturage, as well as combining the three distinctive qualities of milk production, beef, and labor. The chief objection to them seems to be in their small size. In the latter respect different families vary considerably. Those of the southern part of the county from which the breed derives its name are large in size, and their bones and muscles of coarser texture than those of the northern portion, while their aptitude to fatten is less, although they possess superior milking qualities. The portion of this country in which this breed is most numerous, is perhaps New England and some of the middle States, although it is quite extensively disseminated in some of the Western and Southern States. In a special article written expressly for this work, Hon. J. Buckingham of Ohio says:

In all his points the Devon is the finest formed and most blood-like of cattle. He is to his congeners what the Arabian is to other horses.
Goodale defines the difference between a race and breed as follows : Races are varieties moulded .to their peculiar type by natural causes, with no interference of man, and no inter mixture of other varieties ; that have continued substantially the same for a period beyond which the memory and knowledge of man does not reach. Such are the North Devon Cattle.

By breeds are understood such varieties as were originally produced by a cross or mixture, and subsequently established by selecting for breeding purposes only the best specimens and rejecting all others. In process of time deviations become less frequent, and greater uniformity was secured, and this is in proportion to the time which elapses, and the skill employed.

Writers on cattle divide them into three varieties; the Short-Horn, originally found in northern and eastern counties of England; the Middle-Horns in the western and southern parts, and the Long-Horned in the midland counties, and in Ireland; all agreeing that the 'Middle-Horned,' of which the Devons form one variety, are descendants of the aboriginal breed of Great Britain, The North Devons (commonly called Devons) are a race of cattle indigenous to the county in England from whence they take their name, where from time immemorial they have reigned alone, admired for their beautiful red coats, elegant form, good disposition, active gait.. and also for their strong vitality, as is shown in their power of reproducing their own form, color, and general characteristics in their progeny or their grades. The country and climate had much to do in the muscular development and constitutional vigor, which are so naturally fixed and perfected that crossing with any other breed would be more likely to injure them than improve them.

Originating centuries ago, when the wild grasses afforded them scant feed, it necessitated continued exercise in hunting for and gathering their subsistence. By such natural exercise continued through many generations, the muscles of the breed have been developed and rendered compact, and their bones solidified, till each bears a due proportion to the other, and both to the size of the body in all its parts, producing a form of the most beautiful symmetry.

The bulls, on an average, weigh from 1,600 to 1,800 pounds, though. When transferred to our rich valleys of blue-grass pastures and corn, not unfrequently reach 2,000 to 2,200 pounds.

Description.—The color of the Devon is of a deep red, great pains having been taken by breeders of the improved families of this breed with respect to this point, in the selection for breeding purposes, those having any tendency to materially deviate from this color being rejected. This characteristic has been fairly established, and their color, as well as other strong points, is stamped with absolute certainty on their offspring. To such an extent is this true, that when the Devon bull is crossed with the native and grade cows of whatever color, the. Progeny will, with very rare exceptions, be red like the sire, while there is no race of cattle in which any admixture of other blood may be so easily traced.

The head is finely formed, and well set, being lean, rather short, broad between the eyes, and a face somewhat dishing, tapering to a fine flesh.color or slightly yellow muzzle. The horns are of medium length, or perhaps might be called rather long, cream-colored, black at the tips, upright., and curving outward. The eye is bright, full, mild in expression, rather large, and is surrounded by a yellow-tinted ring. The skin is thin and yellow, hair of medium length, soft and silky, neck rather long, with veins full and smooth, little or no dewlap, shoulders somewhat slanting, chest wide and full, back straight and broad, ribs round and well expanded. The flanks are full and deep, and the hips rather wide, and level with the back. The legs are small, flat, and sinewy; tail full at the setting, and tapering towards the end, usually terminating with a bunch of white hair. The size of the Devon is somewhat small, when compared with our native stock. Oxen, however, when full grown, will range in live weight from thirteen hundred to sixteen hundred pounds; bulls from a thousand to thirteen hundred, and cows from eight hundred to a thousand pounds.

Our illustrations of this breed are faithful and life-like representations, being made from photographs of the living animals (as indeed all our plates of animals are), and not only this, but of the best type of each species and breed to be found in the country.


Devons in the Dairy.-- Devons were formerly more celebrated as milkers than at present, the improved race being regarded as medium in this respect. The quality of their milk, is however, rich, and superior to that of many of the heavier milking breeds.

Their milking qualities have in a measure deteriorated through efforts towards improvement in other respects, but that they have been used with profit in the dairy, will be seen by the following records of yield which have been obtained from various authentic sources. Mr. C. S. Wainwright of Rhinebeck, N. Y., made fourteen pounds of butter per week from Helena; F. P. Holcomb of New Castle, Del., nineteen and one-half pounds a week from Lady; Hon. H. Capron, formerly of Robin's Nest, Ill., twenty-one pounds in nine days from Flora 2d. C. P. Holcomb, New Castle, Del., in twelve weeks, made from one cow 174 pounds of butter, or an average of fourteen pounds nine ounces per week; during one week she made nineteen pounds, and in three days nine and one-half pounds; W. L. Cowles, Farmington, Conn., sixteen and one-half pounds in ten days; J. Buckingham, Duncan's Falls, Ohio. In three months, from four cows, an average of forty-four and one-half pounds per week, besides using the cream and milk in a family of seven persons; L. G. Collins, Newark, Mo., from the dam of Red Jacket, sixteen and three-fourth pounds per week; Mr. Coleman, twenty-one pounds per week for several weeks in succession; Mr. Hurlbut of Connecticut, from Beauty, averaged sixteen pounds per week during the month of June, when she was sixteen years old; E. H. Hyde, Stafford, Conn.,. From Gem, 215 pounds of butter in ninety-five days, an average of over two and one-fourth pounds per day.

It is generally supposed that the rotundity of form and compactness of frame which contribute so much to the remarkable beauty of the North Devon com—a peculiarity of form which disposes an animal to take on fat readily is incompatible with good milking qualities, And Youatt in this connection expresses the opinion that “for the dairy the North Devon must be acknowledged to be inferior to several other breeds. The milk is good, and yields more than the average proportion of cream and butter; but it is deficient in quantity.” He also maintains that the milking qualities could not be improved without probable or certain detriment to the grazing qualities.

The editor of this work some years since had occasion to examine several animals from the celebrated Patterson herd, which would have been regarded as remarkable milkers, even among good milking stock. They had not, to be sure, the beautiful symmetry of form and fineness of bone which characterize most of the modern and highly improved pure-bred North Devons, and had evidently been bred for many years with special reference to the development of the milking qualities, great care having been used to select both sires and dams from the best milking stock, rather than that of the finest forms. The Devon has been bred principally for beef and labor, rather than for dairy use, and its chief merit lies in this direction.

Devons as Working Oxen.—As a working ox, this breed may perhaps very justly be said to excel all others in beauty, intelligence, activity, docility, strength according to size, and the ease with which animals may be matched. They are very fast walkers on the road, and are ambitious workers, while they possess great endurance. Care should be used, however, not to overload them, or test their strength too severely, as they are of small size. They are, however, suited to all the ordinary labor of the farm, and are more hardy than some of the large breeds. Mr. Buckingham, to whom previous reference has been made, says oi this race of cattle in this connection: The Devon ox grows much larger than the bull or cow; he has a long, large, symmetrical frame, with a clear, sharp-looking head, prominent eyes, flesh colored nose, and handsome upturned horns, which are quite fine at the point. Shoulders quite oblique and well placed, tug ribs well sprung from a straight back; hind quarters full and heavily muscled; his fore-arm thick and strong, but small below the knee, with good solid hoofs. I have seen two yoke of Devon cattle, weighing 3,600 and 4,000 pounds to the yoke, trot off with an empty wagon for two and one-half miles without walking a step, and then haul back 5,000 pounds of coal, The same oxen hauled 4,500 pounds of potatoes ten miles to the city, and back empty every day in the week, making the trip as quick as a good pair of horses with only 2,500 pounds of a load. At any time they can be soon fattened for the shambles, and the price of their meat at Smithfield, England testifies to the quality of the same.

In the rocky farming districts of the New England States, Devon oxen are almost a necessity. At all events, no intelligent farmer in New England who has rocky soil to till, and once possessing them, will ever consent to be without them afterwards; for on rough lands and hilly roads they are as good as the horse, without being as expensive to keep. Besides when well kept —and oxen should always be well kept— if accident befall them, they can be turned over to the butcher with little, if any loss; whereas the horse under similar circumstances would be a total loss.

As a draught ox, the Devon does not equal the Hereford, because less in size and weight; hut in proportion to size and weight, no ox of any breed whatever cad either out. Draw or outwork him.

Devons for Beef.—There seems to he a fineness of flesh and a delicacy of flavor in the Devon beef not excelled by that of any other breed, except it be the Highland breed of Scotland, which usually brings a little higher price in the London markets than any others; while in this country the Devons are generally first selected from the herds by butchers, where they can be found, being regarded as more choice and marketable than any other breed. The beef from this breed, in fact, possesses all the fine qualities combined, being fine-grained, Tender, juicy, fine flavored, and nicely marbled, or rather the lean and fat are well intermixed. It fattens readily, and matures in about the same time as the Short-Horn. Though small in size, it is claimed by many breeders with whom they are especial favorites, that for the food consumed, they return as large a proportion of beef as the larger breeds. We think, however, that the offal or waste from several small cattle must be somewhat greater than that of the same live weight of larger. Breeds. They mature nearly as soon as the Short-Horns, and fatten readily. Dr. E. H. Woodward of Wisconsin says of them: “ The progress and improvement of the Devon s has continued steadily onward, not only retaining all the estimable qualities for which the early herds are noted, but are to day exhibiting proportions that astonish even the breeders of Short-Horns.

“Banister” (734) weighed at six months old 630 pounds. “ Barefoot” (732) bred by the Hon. James Buckingham, Zanesville, Ohio, weighed at two years old 1,428 pounds. Betty 2d, bred by I. S. Newton, Esq., of Verona, Dane county, Wisconsin, 2,000 pounds at four years old.

The Devons do not mature quite as early as the Short-Horns, but are much more remarkable for longevity, it being not an uncommon occurrence for a cow to retain her breeding and milking qualities until over twenty years old.

Mr. William Mattoon, of Springfield. Mass., slaughtered a bull named “Springfield,” several years since, the dressed weight of which was 1,179 pounds alter hanging sixty hours; and also a cow whose live weight in full feed was 1,215 pounds, the dressed weight of which was 911 pounds, the shrinkage being less than twenty-fire per cent. Another bull of this breed, owned by the same party, the “Duke of Hampden,” when sixteen months old weighed 1,210 pounds, having gained in the seventy-five days previous 210 pounds, equivalent to two and four-fifths pounds per day. The feed given him was one quart of meal per day. When this animal was three years old, be weighed 2,030 pounds. His herd of cows, varying from four to seventeen years, weighed on an average in the autumn, 1,233 pounds each.

From the London Smithfield market reports, we glean the following facts. The Earl of Leicester's steers, on his Frolkham estates, gave dead net weight, of 1,000, 1,200, and 1,400 pounds, Those of the Duke of Norfolk, in Suffolk, were from 900 to 1,000 pounds each. One is reputed to have given dead net weight of 1,593 pounds at five years and eleven months. Another that was three years and seven months old gave dead net weight of 1,316 pounds (rough tallow 160 pounds). For many localities they are better adapted than some of the heavier breeds, especially so in hilly sections and mountain ranges where grass may be short, and the pasturage scanty.

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