Get to Know
About Red Devon
Devon is one of the oldest beef breeds in existence today. In fact some authorities consider the Devon’s origin to be prehistoric, the assumption being that the breed descended directly from Bos lonqifrons, the smaller type of aboriginal cattle in Britain. In fact, according to an official reference material compiled by the Devon Cattle Breeders Society, Somerset, England; Devon Cattle – The Red Rubies, it appears that the Red Cattle of North Devon may have contributed to the Hereford and other British breeds.
The native home of the Devon is in southwestern England, primarily in the counties of Devon, Somerset, Cornwall, and Dorset. For centuries, herds of red cattle grazed the grass covered hills of this cool, moist region. History records that the Romans took notice of the red cattle when they occupied this area in 55 B.C. There is some evidence that the seagoing Phoenicians may have brought some ancestral red stock from northern Africa or the Middle East to Southwestern England during their visitations for tin. Some animals breeders speculate that this might account for the Devon’s remarkable adaptation to hot climates in spite of its centuries of exposure to the damp, chilly hills of England’s Atlantic coast.
Only 131 years after Columbus discovered North America, the first Devon cattle reached what is now the United States. The year was 1623. The ship Charity brought a consignment of red cattle (one bull and three heifers) from Devonshire to Edward Winslow, the agent for Plymouth Colony. These red cattle of Devonshire, brought in by the Pilgrims, were probably the first purebred cattle to reach North America.
Devon cattle are red in color, varying in shade from a rich deep red to a light red or chestnut color. A bright ruby red color is preferred and accounts for their nickname, the “Red Rubies.” The hair is of medium thickness and is often long and curly during the winter; however, coats are short and sleek in summer.
The functional characteristics of the Devon make them a valuable “genetic tool” for the commercial beef industry. The breed has long been noted for its fertility, calving ease, docility, hardiness and ability to adapt to temperature extremes. The well-developed heat-regulating mechanism of the scrotum of Devon bulls give them an unusual ability to remain fertile despite extremely high environmental temperatures.
Devons are active good “walkers” and are excellent rustlers and grazers. In England, they are known as “the Beef Breed Supreme at Grass.” Their ability to efficiently utilize grass and other forages has heightened their popularity in areas like southern Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand.
The information contained on this page are provided courtesy of Dr. Stewart H. Fowler, Beef Cattle Consultant, Milton, Florida 32570-4178. Source:OSU, Breeds of Livestock