South Devon Cattle

What Is the History of South Devon Cattle? 

Origionating around 400 years ago in the South Hams, South West England, the South Devon cattle (not to be confused with the North Devon cattle) have now spread across both Devon and Cornwall. Isolation was the suspected cause of divergence between the South and North Devon cattle, creating distinct physical differences. Crossing between the North and South Devon cattle, however, did occasionally occur until the mid-19th century. More than 100 years of selection later, the South Devon cattle are now known for their maternal characteristics and high beef quality.

With a varied breeding history, the South Devon cattle have been exported to North America, with some going on the Mayflower (the first ship carrying pilgrims from the UK to the USA)  in 1620. The South Devon Cattle also supplied the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars. 

By the 1800s, the South Devon cattle were a well-established breed. Used to pull ploughs, the South Devon cattle were also known for their rich milk and beef. Later, in 1891, the Government recognised South Devon Herd Book Society was founded, becoming one of 14 Herd Books from the latter half of the 19th century.

By the 20th century, the South Devon cattle had become known for having a triple purpose: production of milk, butterfat and beef. This helped the income of farmers local to South Devon at the time, with their cattle being bought at society sales for overseas markets.

A rapid increase for demand for beef in 1970 led to increasing demand for South Devon cattle outside Devon and Cornwall. Demand also spiked for breeding stock, with 170 bulls being exported to Canada, then 150 to USA and 90 to South Africa.

What Are the Characteristics of South Devon Cattle?

Many South Devon cattle have horns, however, some are naturally polled which are being actively pursued. South Devon cattle have a thick skin with a strong curly coat, often light/medium red in colour. They have a pink nose and muzzle, as well as pink shades around the eyes.

South Devon cattle are one of the largest of British breeds, with a large, muscular frame and a broad head. They continue working until the age of around 12 years.

Known for their docile nature, dubbed ‘the Gentle Giant’, the South Devon cattle are easily managed. Females can be calved from as young as 2 years old and, as aforementioned, are excellent mothers. Although mostly single calves, around 10% of calvings are twins.

How Much Do South Devon Cattle Weigh?

With a stature the size of South Devon cattle, it is unsurprising that mature bulls weigh in at 1200-1500kgs.



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