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Devon -cow- England

(most common name)
(transboundary/brand name)

(local/other name):
• Beef Devon
• North Devon
Red Devon
Red Ruby
• Red Ruby Devon

The Devon, a red middle-horned British breed, originated in the northern part of Devon county and began to spread to other areas during the 1700s. It was originally a triple-purpose breed, but today it is a beef breed.

Early development of the Devon took place in two places: Devon county (southwest England) and Norfolk county (East Anglia area, eastern England).

late 1700s, early 1800s
- In Devon county between 1793–1823, Francis Quartley (of Great Champson, near Molland) refused to sell his best cattle and also bought the best females available in order to stop the degeneration of the breed and to improve the herd inherited from his father. This work provided the foundation for the modern Devon. Francis Quartley ended his work in 1836.
- In Norfolk county, Devon cattle were brought to the estate of Thomas William Coke (1754–1842; noted agriculturalist; 1st Earl of Leicester in 1837). His herd gained a high reputation and numbered up to 200 animals. His first exportation of Devon cattle was to the USA. After his death in the 1840s, the status of his herd was maintained for many years.
1850 - Devon herdbook founded by Colonel John Tanner Davy
1884 - Devon Cattle Breeders’ Society formed and assumed herdbook responsibility
1908 - census recorded almost half a million Devon, ranking it #2 breed in Britain
late 1980s - maybe 30% of Devon population crossed with Limousin and Salers
2016 - reports of breeders using Devon semen (collected in 1960s and 1970s) to restore traditional qualities

Devon cattle have been exported to:
• Australia (breed society 1929; herdbook 1873)
• Brazil (herdbook 1952)
• Jamaica
• New Zealand (breed society 1964)
• South Africa (breed society 1917; herdbook 1906)
• Uruguay (herdbook 1888)
• USA (breed society 1905; herdbook 1955)

In the global population, most Devon are now polled. Whether the hornless trait arose through mutation or introgression is not clear.

The Pilgrims brought Devon cattle with them to North America in the 1623. These cattle did not survive. Later imported purebred Devons developed into the Milking Devon, a strain maintained by the American Milking Devon Cattle Association.

The Devon can be described as:
• rich deep red to lighter red coat
• bright ruby red coat preferred
• coat hair short and sleek in summer, longer and curly in winter
• yellowish-orange skin
• flesh-colored muzzle

Breeds developed using the Devon include:
• Bravon
Jamaica Red
Japanese Black
Japanese Shorthorn
Santa Gabriela

This page was last updated on: 2023-05-16

You can also go to:

My Daily Cow® England and read about other English cattle breeds.

The Cow Wall® A-Z Cattle Breed Picture Reference to see other breeds of cattle in the world.