(most common name)
The Jersey started development in the 18th century on Jersey — the largest of the Channel Islands, which are located in the English Channel (near the coast of France) but are not a part of the United Kingdom. Rather, they are a British Crown dependency.
But where did the Jersey originate? It has a heat tolerance and also B-allele hemoglobin which may link it in some way to Asian or North African cattle. Was there a Neolithic migration through Spain and France that reached the Channel Islands? No one knows for certain.
Jersey-type cattle are noted as early as the 15th century on the island. In England, the richness of their milk had met with approval by the late 18th century.
In those early times, large numbers of French cattle were traded through Jersey island because English taxes could be avoided. To stop this, in 1763, a new law halted all imports of French breeding stock. In 1789, the transit of French oxen was banned as well. Thus, the Jersey breed was kept pure for over 200 years. (The allowance of imported genetics in 2008 ended this purity.)
Initially, Jersey coat color was extremely varied: cream, cream-and-white, fawn, beige, red, red-and-white, mulberry, brindle, black, black-and-white, black with a brownish-red dorsal stripe. Over time, the multitude of colors has settled somewhat but still shows a wide range with the males usually being darker than the females. Breeders do agree that there should always be a white band around the muzzle and a dark orange color inside the ears. Jerseys also often have black-pigmented skin and darker hair on the head, shoulders and hips.
Centuries ago, Jersey cattle were described as being small and having a defective exterior. But the deer-like head, elegant horns and beautiful, big friendly eyes combined with their docility charmed most everyone. (Except the bulls, who become very bad tempered and dangerous as they age.)
Today the Jersey is regarded as a small, well-balanced, refined, single-purpose dairy breed that is an excellent grazer and can yield more than 10 times its bodyweight in each lactation. Their milk remains one of the richest due to it being so high in butterfat.
This page was last updated on: 2020-04-23
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