Alderney Cattle

Henry Thompson in The American Farmer. 1825

Alderney Cattle
Baltimore County, 26th Sept. 1825
John S. Skinner, Esq.


Sir- I am much surprised to learn from your American Farmer of the 23d inst. that any doubts exist of the cattle imported by Mr. Creighton in 1819, being Alderney, but more particularly so at the assertion of your correspondent Curwen, who says, "That Mr. Creighton's cattle came from Alderney, has never been denied, but that they were what are called in Europe "Alderney", or have been received in America as such, has been contested from the date of their importation." How, or where Curwen obtained this information, I am at a loss to conjecture, for it is new to me; but having become possessed of a bull and cow of said importation, which I had the best evidence for believing to be pure Alderney, and having sold their descendants as such, it becomes proper for me to state such facts as will bear me out in such belief.

Mr. James Creighton imported the cattle in question, in the summer of 1819, and he published in the American Farmer, vol ii page 101, the following statement:

"The above cattle (two bulls and four cows) I bought in the Islands of Guernsey and Alderney, and was assisted in the selection of them by Col. M`Rea, of the Royal Invalids, in the former island, and by the Governor (Col. le Messurier) of the latter. They are of the pure Alderney breed; the bull which Mr. Henry Thompson purchased, obtained two prizes from the Agricultural Society of those islands, and was esteemed one of the finest animals that had been raised for many years.

I bought them without any desire of making money by them, and they were offered to several gentlemen here before their arrival, at cost and charges; they were finally sold at auction for much less than I paid for them".

Now I ask, if it was likely that Mr. Creighton would publish this statement, if he did not know the cattle described to be pure Alderney, as also if he had not a better opportunity of ascertaining this fact when on the spot, and assisted by the most respectable characters, than any person can have in this country, who never heard of the animals until they arrived here. At the public sale these cattle were uncommonly low in flesh, having had a very long and hot passage; nevertheless, they sold together for §1215, which Mr. Creighton asserts, "was much less than he paid for them," - a tolerable good evidence this, of the estimation in which they were held in their native country, and I should presume, something more than would have been given for animals not known to be of genuine blood.

Curwen publishes the opinion of the judges of our Agricultural Cattle Show in support of his hypothesis, wherein they express doubts of a bull shown as genuine, and descended from Mr. Creighton's stock, but "they presume there must have been some accidental cross in his breeding." I was present on this occasion, (and had my Alderney cow there) but understood that the opinion of the judges did not arise from any doubts of the original importation being genuine, but that "a stray bull had jumped into the pasture." On this occasion, in corroboration of this impression, one of the judges called the attention of his associates to examine my Alderney cow, and pointed out what appeared to him some striking difference in their form and points, with a view to show that the young bull was of doubtful origin, but I did not hear a word expressed of my cow being considered other than genuine; and in further corroboration of this fact, I beg to refer to the report of the same judges, and at the same time, who say, "Mr. J.S. Skinner showed a very heavy and finely formed Alderney cow-calf, of seven months old, of great promise for another year." This calf was out of my cow, and was at the same time sold to one of the judges for §150, and taken to another state. I would here ask, if it is not probable, that if the judges had not believed the calf to be a genuine Alderney, they would have hesitated in giving the same opinion as in the case of the young bull.

If your present correspondent Curwen, is the same who addressed you in vol. iii page 153, he has certainly changed his opinion of Mr. Creighton's importation, for he there states, that "Dickson has said, and we have always thought that Alderneys are "peculiarly fitted" to ladies and lords; but unhappily Alderneys appear to think that we are not fitted for them, since Mr. Haines' imported Alderney bull, killed a man at Wilkesbarre, and was shot.

Captain Thompson's imported bull shewed the same inclination, and was condemned to the yoke. Mr. G. Howard's imported bull, for the like disposition, is shut up for life." The latter two were of Mr. Creighton's importation, and thus evidently admitted by Curwen to be Alderneys.

Mr. Reuben Haines is, I understand, well acquainted with Alderney cattle, he examined my cow, milked her, and pronounced her a genuine Alderney. Many other gentlemen have frequently seen her, and given the same opinion most decidedly; but, in particular, the late Mr. Robert Patterson, who became well acquainted with the breed in England, but particularly at Cheltenham, where he boarded with a person who kept one Alderney cow expressly to supply rich milk and cream for his visitors, and which he, (Mr. P.) informed me was as much like mine in form, colour, and all other qualities, as any two animals could possibly be.

Last, although not least in my estimation for good judgment, I must be permitted, Mr. Editor, to refer to yourself, who, in vol ii, page 79, Amer. Farmer, thus express yourself upon this subject - "Having heard and read of the extraordinary richness of the Alderney's milk, a few days since we improved of the opportunity which was very politely offered us, to judge for ourselves - we saw the Alderneys and other cows milked, examined and compared each  at different periods after milking, and we are firmly persuaded, that the Alderney milk take in the morning and divested of its cream, at 2 o'clock, p.m. is then richer than the milk of the common cow when first drawn.

It may be distinguished in the pail or the dairy, with half an eye, by its rich yellow colour, which passes through the ream and displays itself in the butter."

The above described milk was taken from my cow, one of Mr. Creighton's importation; and I hope enough has been stated to satisfy the most sceptical of their having been the pure and genuine race of Alderneys; how, or where Curwen has imbibed a different opinion, and for what reason published, I am at a loss to conjecture, but hope he will now be satisfied of his error, and I return him my acknowledgments for his urbanity towards myself in the concluding part of his communication.
Yours respectfully
Henry Thompson

Source: The American Farmer. 1825

Part of letter written by Reuben Haines about the first importation of Alderney cattle for America


Letter to Reuben Haines from R. Smith, Baltimore 1823



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