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The North Devon breed of cattle as described in writings around the 1864 time frame.


A North Devon Steer

      This beautiful race of middle horned cattle dates further back than any well established breed among us. It goes generally under the simple name of Devon; but the cattle of the southern part of the country, from which the race derives its name, differ somewhat from those of the northern, having a larger and coarser frame, and far less tendency to fatten though their dairy qualities are superior.

     The North Devons are remarkable for hardihood, symmetry and beauty, and are generally bred for work and for beef, rather than for the dairy. The head is fine and well set on; the horns of medium length, generally curved; color usually bright blood-red, but sometimes inclining to yellow; skin thin and orange-yellow; hair of medium length, soft and silky, making the animals remarkable as handlers; muzzle of the nose white; eyes full and mild; ears yellowish, or orange-color inside, of moderate size; neck rather long, with little dewlap; shoulders oblique; legs small and straight, with feet in proportion; chest of good width; ribs round and expanded; loins of first-rate quality, long, wide, and fleshy; hips round, of medium width; rump level; tail full near the setting on, tapering to the tip; thighs of the bull and ox muscular and full, and high in the flank, though in the cow sometimes thought to be light; the size medium, generally called small. The proportion of meat on the valuable parts is greater, and the offal less, than on most other breeds, while it is well settled that they consume less food in its production. The Devons are popular with the Smithfield butchers, and their beef is well marbled or grained.

     As working oxen, the Devons perhaps excel all other races in quickness, docility, beauty, and the ease with which they are matched. With a reasonable load, they are said to be equal to horses as walkers on the road, and when they are no longer wanted for work they fatten easily and turn well.

     As milkers, they do not excel, perhaps they may be said not to equal, the other breeds, and they have a reputation of being decidedly below the average. In their native country the general average of the dairy is one pound of butter a day during the summer. They are bred for beef and for work, and not for the dairy; and their yield of milk is small, though of a rich quality. Several animals, however, of the celebrated Patterson herd would have been remarkable as milkers even among good milking stock.

     Still, the faults of the North Devon cow, considered as a dairy animal, are too marked to be overlooked. The rotundity of form and compactness of frame, though they contribute to her remarkable beauty constitute an objection to her for this purpose: since it is generally admitted that the peculiarity of form which disposes an animal to take on fat is somewhat incompatible with good milking qualities. On this account, Youatt, who is standard authority in such matters, says 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 its property as a milker could not be improved without producing a certain detriment to its grazing qualities. Distinguished Devon breeders themselves have come to the same conclusion upon this point. The improved North Devon cow may be classed, in this respect, with the Hereford, neither of which has well developed milk-vessels, a point of the utmost consequence to the practical dairyman.

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