American Cattle as described in writings around the 1864 time frame.
The breeds of cattle which stock the farms of the United
States are all derived from Europe, and, with few exceptions, from Great Britain. The highest breeds at the present
time are of comparatively recent origin, since the great improvements in breeding were only commenced at about the
period of the American Revolution. The old importations made by the early settlers, must consequently have been
from comparatively inferior grades.
In some sections of the Union, and more particularly in New
England, the primitive stock is thought to have undergone considerable improvement; whilst in many parts of the
Middle, and especially of the Southern States, a greater or less depreciation has ensued. The prevailing stock in
the Eastern States is believed to be derived from the North Devons, most of the excellent marks and qualities of
which they possess. For this reason they are very highly esteemed, and have been frequently called the American
Devon. The most valuable working oxen are chiefly of this breed, which also contributes so largely to the best
displays of beef found in the markets of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. By means of this domestic stock, and
the importations still extensively made of selections from the short horns, and others of the finest European
breeds, the cattle, not only of New England, but of other sections, are rapidly improving, especially in the Middle
and Western States.
A brief sketch of the principal breeds of American cattle, as well as of the grades or
common stock of the country, will be of service to the farmer in making an intelligent selection with reference to
the special object of pursuit, whether it be the dairy, the production of beef, or the raising of cattle for
In selecting any breed, regard should be had to the circumstances of the individual
farmer and the object to be pursued. The cow most profitable for the milk dairy, may be very unprofitable in the
butter and cheese dairy, as well as for the production of beef; while, for either of the latter objects, the cow
which gave the largest quantity of milk might be very undesirable. A union and harmony of all good qualities must
be secured, so far as possible. The farmer wants a cow that will milk well for some years; and then, when dry,
fatten readily and sell to the butcher for the highest price. These qualities, often supposed to be utterly
incompatible, will be found united in some breeds to a greater extent than in others; while some peculiarities of
form have been found, by observation, to be better adapted to the production of milk and beef than others.