Ayrshires in America by Clifford T. Conklin. [American Dairy Cattle Their Past and
Future by E. Parlamee Prentice. 1942]
Plans for introducing a new breed of live stock to a country are seldom made in
advance. As a rule, the first specimens filter in with other commercial articles,a fter
they have attracted the attention of a few enterprising or curious individuals, who make
the first purchases. A dairy breed, like any other commodity, is thus given a trial. If it
is economically successful and conditions are favorable, additional importations follow,
and a breed becomes established. It was in this manner that the first Ayrshires were
brought to America. Enterprising masters of sailing vessels, settlers moving to new
frontiers, or the occasional traveller with means for making such purchases, were
responsbile for introducing the Ayrshire to the United States.
Like other breeds, Ayrshires arrived here while dairying was in its primitive stages,
and before it had become a great commercial industry. According to Plumb, the first
Ayrshires were probably introduced early in the 19th century by Scottish settlers moving
to Canada. Later, descendants from these cattle may have been shipped into northern New
York and New England.
There is no evidence of specifi importations prior to 1822. In the Memoirs of the
Pennsylvania Agricultural Society for 1824, considerable discussion is devoted to breeds
of cattle, yet the Ayrshire is not named. Colonel John Hare Powel John Hare Powell, the
Secretary of the Pennsylvania Society, who had studied the various breeds in Europe, wrote
that he had traced every importation of European cattle of which he had heard, mentioning
cattle of arious breeds taken to eight different States, with no Ayrshires, however, being
included in any of these importations. In view of the youth of the breed in its native
land, it seems quite reasonable to conclude that no Ayrshire had been brought to America
before this time.
In 1822, the first definitely known importation of Ayrshire cattle was brought to the
United States by Mr. Henry W. Hills, who sent them to the farm of Mr. Hezekiah Hills at
Windsor, Connecticut. Apparently, they were later re-sold and mated with shorthorns and
native cattle, so that they in no way contributed to the establishment of the breed.
From 1838 to 1844, inclusive, Captain George Randall, a sailing master of New Bedford,
Massachusetts, made a series of five small importations which totaled eight head. Since in
four of the shipments there were cows in milk, Captain Randall may have ad the double
purpose of supplying the ship`s tables and improving his own herd, in which he took
Still another publication, Turf, Field and Farm, reported that Ayrshires were first
introduced into this country in 1828, which is indicative that a shipment was made in that
year. In 1831, reference is made to a full-blood Ayrshire cow being in the possession of a
Dr. White of Dutchess County, New York. These shipments apparently had no lasting effect,
except to acquanint a limited number of individuals with the characteristics of the breed.
Massachusetts becomes first Ayrshire center. In all probability, the first importations
of any consequence were made in 1837 by J.P. Cushing of Watertown, Massachusetss, and by
the Massachusetts Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, each involving four head. The
latter organization was destined to become an important force for the advancement of the
Ayrshire, as well as other breeds. The shipment of 1837 consisted of a bull and three
cows. The bull was sent to the western part of the State and was kept near Pittsfield. One
of the cows was placed in the care of Hon. P.C. Brooks at Medford; another in the care of
Hon. Daniel webster at Marshfield; and the third of Mr. Elias Phinney at Lexington. This
last, eighteen years old, was still living in 1847.
In 1845, this Society made its second importation, consisting of a bull Prince Albert and
four cows. These animals were selected by Mr. Alexander Brickett of Lowell, and were
placed on the farm of mr. Elias Phinney at Lexington.
In 1858, the Massachusetts Society again sendt to Scotland and this time, through Mr.
Sanford Howard, selected and imported four bulls and eleven heifers. Mr. Howard, an
agricultural leader of his day, was on the staff of The Boston Cultivator, at that time
one of the nation`s foremost agricultural periodicals, which encouragedd importations of
purebred live stock. Mr. Howard was greatly interested in Ayrshires and wrote the
Introduction to the Ayrshire Section of Volume I of the Herd Record, published by the
Association of Breeders of Thorough-Bred Neat Stock, in which the pedigrees of the first
Ayrshires were recorded. The bulls selected by Mr. Howard appear to have been Tam Sampson,
Troon, Albert and Irvine. Kilmarnock and Young Cardigan were imported in their dams. All
of these animals were from the herds of well-known breeders in Ayrshire.
Following their policy of attempting to improve the live stock of Massachusetts, the
Society presented these pure-bred sires to the agricultural societies of Hampshire,
Franklin, Worcester County, Essex, Hampden, Barnstable, Plymouth and Middlesex, all of
which were then thriving organizations.
Very few importations before 1860.
Available records indicate that up until 1840, a total of only seventeen Ayrshires were
introduced into The United States. During the next twenty years 1840-1860, there are
records of additional importations of nearly two hundred head.
Undoubtedly the largest operators prior to 1860 were Mr. James Brodie of Rural Hill, New
York, and Mr. H.H. Peters of Southborough, Massachusetts. The former acted as agent for
several breeders, and played an important part in popularizing the breed in northern New
York. He also exhibited his importations at the New York State Fair.
In 1858 Mr. Peters made his first impotation of four heifers through Mr. Sanford Howard,
and the next year imported two bulls and twenty-one cows and heifers. The Peters herd was
not only the first well-managed herd of Ayrshires of any size, but in 1864, was also the
first to issue a catalogue giving the full details concerning the herd, and an interesting
review of the business of an early Ayrshire breeder, from which we quote as follows:
I sold my herd last year, 29 head, which brought in the aggregate $4,800 (average
$165). Nineteen cows and heifers brought $3.800 (average $200). The animals sold were
taken into several of the New England States, though some were taken into the State of New
One of the outstanding members of Mr. Peters`herd was the cow, Jean Armor, Imp. That in
114 milking days gave an average of 49 pounds and 3 ounces of milk, ranging from 58 to 43
pounds. Her weight at the close of the trial was 967 pounds. That the hard-working Jean
Armour was evidently somewhat smaller than other members of the herd, is indicated by the
fact that when dressed for beef, Ada, also owned by Mr. Peters, had a carecass weighing882
pounds, tallow 111 pounds, hide 70 pounds, making a total of 1,009 pounds. Few Ayrshire
cows of the present day would dress more.
On April 11, 1865, Mr. Peters dispersed his herd at auction which was undoubtedly the
first Ayrshire auction sale held in this country. An indication of Mr. Peters` business
may be gathered from the statement:
The sales of Ayrshires since my last statement, January 1, 1864, have exceeded $7,000
in amount for 46 animals, 20 bulls and 26 heifers, nearly all of which were quite young,
many of them being calves. It should be understood that my herd is not in show condition,
most of the cows having given large quantities of milk through the winter, of which my
sales for the past five months, at five cents per quart have amounted to $1,330.
A full-blood steer, three years old March 5, 1865, now weighs 1,332 pounds and girths six
feet and ten inches; had ever tasted meal until the middle of last November, and has made
greater increase of weight on less food, than either of fifteen grade and native
animals fed by his side; these animals will be on exhibition at the sale.
Probably the first introduction of the breed in Kentucky was made by Mr. R.A.
Alexander, who brought over some Ayrshires in 1855. At that time, Mr. Alexander`s Woodburn
herd of Shorthorns and his stud of thoroughbred horses were nationally famous, and
unfortunately his Ayrshires were so completely overshadowed that they eventually
disappeared. However, New England continued to import the largest number of Ayrshires,
with Mr. Sanford Howard serving as agent andleader of this movement.
Among the leading Canadian importers of this period were the Montreal Agricultural
Society, and Mr. James Logan of Montreal, the Hochelaga Agricultural Society, and Mr.
Dawes of La Chine, P.Q.,
Mr. N.S. Gibb of Compton, P.Q.,
Made a series of importations, the largest of which consisted of 21 head during 1870.
Six cows and a bull were also brought to Canada by Mr. William Gibson of Morrisburg, P.Q.,
who later sold two of the cows to Mr. J.T. Rutherford of Waddington, New York. In 1870 Mr.
J.J.C. Abbott, of st. Anne`s near Montreal received ten head. Some of these Canadian-owned
cattle later crossed the border.
In July, 1870, Mr. J.H. Morgan of Ogdensbur, New York, imported three cows and a bull. One
of the group, Model of Perfection was later sold to Sturtevant Brothers, South Framingham,
Massachusetts, for £1,000, the highest prie known to have been paid for an Ayrshire at
that time, and undoubtedly close to a top figure for dairy cows of any breed at that time.
Sturtevants first breed publicists.
In 1869 the Sturtevant Brothers, Dr. E. Lewis sturtevant and Mr. Joseph N. Sturtevant,
received eight cows from Scotland and proceeded to establish a herd that became a worthy
successor to the Peters herd, that had been dispersed in 1865. In addition, the members of
this firm published, in 1875, a volume entitled, A Monograph on the Ayrshire Breed of
Cattle, which is one of the most complete sources of information on that period. In this
book is a monthly report of the milk production of each member of their herd from 1867 to
1874, inclusive. In 1867, the twenty-five members of the grade herd that were on the farm
prior to the introduction of the Ayrshires, averaged 4,675 pounds of milk - a sad
commentary on the productivity of a herd that was kept under far better-than-average
conditions of its day.
Obviously, the number of Ayrshires is the United States prior to 1870 was quite limited -
probably not over 1,000 head - but at that time the strength of the Ayrshire was about on
a par with that of the other dairy breeds. Beef was the major crop harvested from cattle
herds. Shorthorns were booming, while breeders of dairy cattle were still in the dark as
to the popularity that was to come to their herds.
Early breeders ignore expansion opportunities.
Unfortunately , Ayrshire interest, unlike those associated with the other breeds, were
not organized to take advantage of the vast expansion of the dairy industry, that was to
begin in the late seventies and the early eighties and to continue for the next forty
years. Home butter-making, cooperative cheese factories and later creameries, as well as
the steady progress made in the fluid milk trade, were all stimulating a demand for
specialized dairy cattle, which only Europe could supply. Literally thousands of
Holstein-Friesians and Jerseys, and later Guernseys, and a limited number of Brown Swiss,
were imported to propagate their kind in every youthful but growingdaiary center, while
Ayrshire importations showed but little increase.
Perhaps of even more far-reaching importance was the placing of other breeds on the
fertile lands of the Midwest, where feed was abundant, while the majority of the Ayrshires
remained on rougher farms amid the sterner climatic conditions of New England.
A vivid picture of the status of the Ayrshire breed may be gathered from the fact that the
tenth annual meeting of the Ayrshire Breeders` Association held on February 4, 1885, when
plans were laid for its incorporation, revealed that the receipts from registrations
during the year amounted to only $1,297,99, while the expenditures were $791,68. At this
same meeting it was reported that 12,367 Ayrshires ahd been recorded since the
establishment of the Herd Book.
Contrast these modest conditions with the fact that by that time about 10.000
Holstein-Friesians had been imported, most of them having come over during the previous
eight years, and that from 6,000 to 9,000 were being recorded each year. Furthermore, by
that time there had been registered just about 40,000 Jersey cattle. Just five years
later, the officers of the thriving American Jersey Cattle Club voted to appropriate
$10,000 for a demonstration herd at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, a project in
which $23,000 was invested by the Club before it was concluded.
Establishment of the Herd Book.
The first registration of Ayrshires in the United States was included in the Herd Book
of the Association of Breeders of Thorough-Bred Neat Stock, Hartford, Connecticut, which
included not only Ayrshires, but also Shorthorns, Devons, Jerseys, Alderneys and
Herefords. This method was followed until May, 1875, when Dr. E. Lewis sturtevant and Mr.
Jospeh N. Sturtevant issued a herd book known as the North American Ayrshire Register.
Since the publication of two books caused considerable confusion, the newly-organized
association of Ayrshire Breeders, at their meeting in Albany, New York, on January 21,
1875, decided that an official Ayrshire Herd Record should be established under the
control of the Association. This publication has been continued witthout interruption
through to the present time.
The demand from importers, as well as a desire on the part of the Scottish breeders to
establish their own book, resulted in founding the Scottish Ayrshire Herd Book Society on
June 26, 1877. The Canadian Herd Record, which was originally a part of the Amerian book,
has for yearsbeen established asa separate publication.
On November 23, 1886, the Ayrshire Breeders` Assocation was incoporated under the laws of
the State of Vermont. The first secretary of the Association was Mr. J.R. Stuyvesan, who
was elected at the organization meeting in 1875, and who resigned later that year to be
succeeded by Mr. J.D. W. French. Mr. French served until 1882, when he was succeeded by
Mr. C.M. Winslow, who was Secretary for thirty-six years, until his death in 1918. Mr.
Winslow established his herd in 1873, and was an active breeder until his death. In
addition to serving as Secretary, he was one of the leading early breeders, with a wide
following in dairy cattle circles.
From all indications, the outstanding Ayrshire cow in the United States prior to 1900 was
Duchess of Smithfield, owned by Mr. H.R.C. Watson of Brandon, Vermont, and New York. In
1885, this cow was reported to have produced 10.748 pounds of milk in 301 days.
Breed population 11,000 in 1900.
At the beginning of the century, there were about 11,000 Ayrshires in the United
States, of which only about 1,400 were west and south of Pennsylvania. In the light of
later developments, this was almost a crushing handikap, for the other dairy breeds were
then widely scattered over an area that was later to furnish the bulk of America`s
domestic and export dairy products.
However, under the leadership of Secretary Winslow, supported by loyal, hard-working
northeastern farmers, the breed made progress, even though its orgnization program was
most conservative. The first important breed display had been made at the Columbian
Exposition in Chicago, where the conformation and shapely udders of the Ayrshire attracted
no small amount of attention. This show, which brought together the more stylish and
lighter coloured Scottish-bred cattle from Canada, in contrast with the plainer,d
arker-coloured and much smaller New England entries, caused quite a rift in breed circles,
while helping to establish new type standards, which were rather far-reaching.
The Chicago show of Ayrshires was almost immediately followed by classifications at other
fairs, with the result that the breed was presented over a much broader area, which
undoubtedly stimulated popularity.
Home test established in 1884.
In 1884, the first steps were taken to recognize production, as $225 was voted by the
Ayrshire Breeders`s Association for six annual prizes - three prizes of $50 each for the
most milk, butter or cheese made by herds of six cows, as well as prizes of $25 each for
the most mil, butter or cheese made by single cows. These were home tests, in which the
owners`s records were accepted. In the years that followed, the results of these tests
were widely published in the Agricultural press, and whereas they id not compare in
numbers nor amounts with those of some of the other breeds, it was a start which helped
the breed and commanded considerable attention.
Advanced Registry founded in 1902.
In 1902, the Ayrshire breeders followed the exaample of the other breeds and established
an Advanced Registry, which gradually increased in importance and continued to stimulate
interest in higher production. It was based on 365-day records, with no calving
requirements, and reached its peak between 1915-1918.
Progressive influence brings tardy expansion. Fortunately, during the first two decades
of the 20th century, a more progressive Ayrhisre movement was launched as a group of men
trained in business established herds, some of which were destined to become the leaders
in breed improvement. With the inclination and the ability to assemble and develop
outstanding herds, these breeders searched through both Canada and the United States for
the best cattle that were available. In addition, several of them became interested in
importing some of the best stock available in Scotland. Repeated inspection trips were
made to the homeland of the breed, and with the animals that were brought over, came a
splendid group of Scottish cattlemen, who have distinguished themselves in positions of
responsibility, where they have contributed much to the progress of the breed.
Conspicuous among the herds that came into existence with this progressive period prior
to 1925, and whose influence is still being felt, are the following:
R.R. Ness & Sons, Burnside Farm, Howick, Quebec, Canada (1893 - )
John R. Valentine, Highland Farm, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (1894-1927)
Lawrence A. Reymann, Hill Top Farm, Wheeling, West Virginia (1897 - continued as Reymann
W.P. Schanck, Avon, New York (1899-1938)
Percival Roberts, Jr., Penshurst Farm, Narberth, Pennsylvania (1906-1938)
George H. Converse, Woodville, New York (1906-1925)
A.B. McConnell & Sons, Wellington, Ohio (1906- )
George H. McFadden, Barclay Farms, Rosemont, Pennsylvania (1906-1925)
J.W. Clise, Willowmoor Farm, Redmond, Washington (1906-1919)
Leonard Tufts, Pinehurst Farm, Pinehurst, North Carolina (1908 --)
Adam Seitz & Sons, Waukesha, Wisconsin (1908- )
Arthur H. Sagendorph, Alta Crest Farms, Spencer, Massachusetts (1909- )
Hugh J. Chisholm, Strathglass Farm, Port Chester,, New York (1911- )
Gilbert McMillan, Springburn Farm, Huntingdon, Quebec, Canada (1911- )
H.A: Mosees, Woronoco, Massachusetts (1912- )
R.L. Montgomery, Ardrossan Farm, Ithan, Pennsylvania (1912- )
Mrs. E.R. Fritsche, Sycamore Farms, Douglassville, Pennsylvania (1912-1940);
A. Henry Higginson, Middlesex Meadows Farms, South Lincoln, Massachusetts (1913-)
F. Ambrose Clark, Iroquois Farm, Cooperstown, New York (1914- )
J. Henry Stewart, Bath, New York (1914- )
J.W. Hanner, Bryndune Ayrshire Farm, Elk Grove, California (1915- )
Robert L. Knight, Lippitt Farm, Hope, Rhode Island (1916- )
E.W. Van Tassell, Wenatchee, Washington (1917- )
L.A. Johnson, Mesa, Arizona (1918-)
J.M. Cochrane, Bath, New York (1918- )
W.T. Tonner, Glen Foerd Farms, Torresdale, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1919- )
J.W. Alsop, Wood Ford Farm, Avon, Connecticut (1919- )
Through the work of these breeders, a high percentage of the breed`s leading record
cows and Advanced Registry sires has been developed. They have also been most active in
displaying heir cattle and in generally promoting the interests of the breed. Several of
these, including Mr. Hugh J. Chisholm, Mr. Arthur H. Sagendorph and Mr. Percival Roberts,
Jr., were most active making periodic importations from Scotland.
Herd Test established in 1925.
After some two years of consideration and debate, the Ayrshire Herd Test plan was
adopted in 1925. It was based on the principle that every registered female of milking
owned by a breeder must be kept on test as long as th herd is enrolled. Following a system
in which it had been customary to test the better producers and to ignore production
records for others, this type of test wasconsidered revolutionary. However, it has not
only stood the test of time , but it is now the most popular type of test, with
practically all breeds.
It is interesting to note that the Herd Test was virtually a reaction against the
high-pressure methods of record making that were in vogue up to about 1920. Ayrshire
breeders had learned from experience that their highest record cows were not reproducing
as regularly as those that were not forced, and that the cumulative production of these
animals was not proportionate to the highest records. The first reaction against the
365-day test was to ban it in 1925 and to substitute for it a 305-day Roll of Honor
record, for which a cow coul d not qualify except by meeting production requirements and
dropping a living claf.ALthough this was a step in the general direction favored by
Ayrshire breeders, the herd test was really the objective desired.
Evidence of the whole-hearted manner with which Ayrshire breeders have adopted the
principle of Herd Testing may be gathered from the fact that there are 14.154 registered
Ayrshires enrolled in dairy herd improvement associations. In addition there are 5,085
Ayshires entered in the Herd Test, of which about 2,000 are not testing through local
testing associations. It is therefore conservatively estimated that there are 16,000
Ayrshires under supervised test.
Since there were about 16,000 calves registered during 1940, it seems reasonable to
believe that after allowing for cows that gave birth to bull calves that are not
registered, at least 40% of the registered Ayrshire females of milking age are on test.
Herd Test records are being used widely for breed-improvement purposes. Practically all
prospective herd sires are now selected with these records as a guide.
Approved Sire plan adopted.
One of the most important project recently undertaken by the Ayrshire Breeders`
Association is its Approved Sire plan. This projectbased on some ten years of personal
study by Mr. Leonard Tufts of Pinehurst, North Carolina, has been adopted for the purpose
of analyzing the transmitting ability of Ayrshires sires.
In order to gain Approved rating, there must be a comparison of a complete sample of at
least ten daughter-dam pairs (a complete sample consists of 10 registered daughters in the
order of their birth. No exceptions are made for those that die before freshening or that
are sold into the herds of non-testers.); all tested daughters of a sire must average at
least 8,500 lbs of milk or 30 lbs fat with an average butterfat test of not less than
3.9%; a sire must have an index of not less than 8,500 lbs. milk or 340 lbs fat and a
butter-fat test index of not less than 3.9%; and not less than 70% of all the tested
daughters must each make 8,500 lbs milk or 340 lbs fat.
All records used in this pln are compared to a mature equivalent 305-day lactation basis
on two milkings daily by the use of standard factors approved by the Bureau of Dairy
Industry, United States Department of Agriculture. Except under unususal circumstances,
records of daughters used are limited to those made in the Herd Test, and only when
necessary are Advanced Registry records of the dams used.
Greatest progress in last quarter century
From the foregoing, it seems obvious that even though Ayrshires were introduced more
than seventy-five- years ago, the major amount of breed progress has been made during the
past quatrer century. With 11,220 head at the beginning of the century, 30,619 in 1920,
and 85,204 in 1940, it will be noted that numerically the breed has advanced in spite of
economic considtion that have prevailed in the dairy industry.
Most of the breeds` more recent growth has been in the Midwest and the upper South. Among
the factors responsbile for this growth has been the changing standards of retail milk
markets, with a tendency to rquire milk testing 4%. This in itself has greatly stimulated
interest in the Ayrshire breed, which has consistently averaged 4,04% during the past
The nation-wide swing away from high individual records and the growing interest in herd
averages made under practical farm conditions, have also been extremely beneficial to
Ayrshire interests. No doubt the tendency for dairymen to reduce production costs by
making greater use of pastures and roughage while limiting the feeding of concentrates,
has resulted in the establishment of many Ayrshire herds.
Common sense on conformation
Distinctly differing from other breeds in conformation, the ayrshire has for many years
enjoyed a very favorable reputation because of its distinctive type. No doubt he physical
characteristics of the breed have won for it many friends and have helped in making sales.
Fortunately, parallel with the desire of the Ayrshire breeder to maintain the highest
standards of conformation, there has developed an increasing tendency to stress the
utility value of their cattle and critically to select breeding stock on this basis.
The importance of well attached udders and the correct conformation of feet and legs in
contributing to wearing qualities are still emphasized. On the other hand, there are at
present no fads or prejudices concerning colour, although of course there are individual
preferences. The socalled vesseltype Ayrshire is acceptable only when her shapliness of
udder is matched by creditable production.
Although horns have been a distinctive Ayrshire characterstic for many years, in 1931
members of the Ayrshire Breeders` Association revised the score card by adding the
following clause: An animal that has been cleanly and neatly dehorned, and whose head
shows true Ayrshire character, shall not be penalized. Since then, several dehorned
animals have won championships at leading fais, including the Dairy Cattle Congress.
Ayrshire breeders have also taken the initiative in abandoning a score card for bulls.
This conclusion was reached after careful consideration and a frank expression of opinion
by the members of the committee to the effect that they were not competent to recommend
physical characteristics of a dairy sire that were in any way indicative of his
ability to transmit production, not even some of the more important physical
characteristics, to his daughters.
At a meeting of the directors of the Association held in November 1940, it was unanimously
voted to request all fairs to discontinue to provide a class for aYrshire bulls either
three years old or four years old and over. This step was taken because Ayrshire breeders
have concluded that the results of showing aged bulls have been economically and
Apparently Ayrshire breeders are devoting themselves wholeheartedly to a program of
breed and herd improvement. With considerable independence of thought, they have not
become enthusiastic about the occasional high record made under forced conditions. Herd
averages are their criterion, and these averages permit no exemption of cows as nurse
cows, nor because of unsoundness. Sires are given an Approved rating only aftera most
exacting study of the whereabouts and records of every daughter standing to their credit
on the Association`s books. Life-time records, a field in which the breed stands second to
none, are in the opinion of Ayrshire breeders, evidence that there is a reward for
continuing to breed a sturdy, wellmade cow.