|According to the Devon Cattle Breeder’s Society in England, Devons are among the earliest breeds of domesticated cattle. The hearty Devon, noted for its exceptional performance in grazing uncultivated grasslands year around in its native England, was an ideal choice for facing life on a new continent where quality forage was scarce, and conditions harsh.
In 1623, a member of the Plymouth Colony received two heifers and a bull from north Devonshire, England, marking the first importation of British cattle to this country. Although the Spanish had already introduced cattle to the south, these were the first to be introduced in New England.
Devons have played an enormous role in the settlement of North America. Highly valued for the quality of their milk and meat, they were probably most esteemed for their intelligence, fast pace, and strength as draught animals. It was the Devon that cleared the New England forests and transformed rocky open land to the fields with stonewalls we see todayclearing the way for the small farms and roadways that followed.
Although trends in cattle production shifted towards the production-based specialties of more single-purpose breeds, the popularity of the Devon has continued through the centuries, defying trends and changes in response to market demand. The cycle has come full circle, and once again, the Devon is superbly suited to the 21st century needs of agriculture.