By E. Parmalee Prentice
American Dairy Cattle. Their Past and Future. NY 1942. Next
Chapter XI. Channel Island Cattle, p. 249.
The Channel Islands are situated in the English Channel west of Normandy and north of St. Malo in Brittany, ALderney, the northernmost of these Islands, is seven miles from the coast of France, whence the inhabitants were long accustomed to procure their grain, flour and provisions in small boats. Guernsey, the Westernmost island, is distant about thirty-two miles from the coast; and Jersey, the largest and farthest south of the Islands, is eighteen to twenty miles from the coast.
Jonathan Duncan says that there is no history of the commerce of the Islands in any period earlier than the close of the sixteenth century. There was a harbor of a sort at St. Aubin, Jersey, in 1551, and Guernsey had a better harbor at an earlier date. There must, therefore, have been some trade when these harbors were built, but agriculture and fishing were the principal occupations of the Islanders, who had little intercourse with other lands than the neighboring oasts of Normandy and Brittany.
It is almost impossible for persons accustomed to the conveniences of modern times to imagine the limitations of life even as recently as a hundred and fifty years ago, but we may perhaps get some idea of conditions in former times from the statement of Professor George Beard Grundy of Cambridge University that life in western Europe, up to the end of the eighteenth century, approached more nearly, in its economics, to life in the fifth century before Christ than it did to life of the present day; or, from the statement of Mr. Austin Freeman, that from the dawn of history to the end of the eighteenth century there was no really great change in the relation of man to his environment.
Until the nineteenth century, the human race lived on the scanty products of hand labor. Even in England, where supplies seem to have been a little better than on the continent, life was hard and want was constant. What life was on remote islands, it is far beyond our best efforts to conceive. Moreover, after the nineteenth century had begun, conditions were still so primitive on the Island of Guernsey, that Mr. Berry`s description of Guernsey agriculture, in 1815, might in some respects pass for an account of farming operations among Gallic tribes of Caesars`s day. Mr. Berry says.:
The narrow limits of an Island, hitherto shut out from agricultural communication with the rest of the world, and too bigoted in long-rooted principles to think improvement possible, can evidently afford but little information to the agriculturist ... The same kind of plough, harrow and every implement of husbandry, used some centuries back, still exist; and though, upon the whole, the lands are clean and tolerably well cultivated, producing excellent crops of every kind, it is to be attributed more to the natural effect of a good soil, and much manual labour, than to any great ingenuity or improved management .. Lands under plough are here never suffered to lie fallow or uncultivated; manured principally from the vrac or sea-weed, a succession of crops is produced without impoverishing the earth ... The wheat and oats are cut in the usual manner; but a strange custom prevails of invariably pulling up the barley by the roots, which must not only take away great part of the soil, and deprive the land of the manure of the stubble; but the shaking off the earth, which is done across the left thigh, must shed much of the grain..
As few farmers keep more than one or two horses and a bullock, which would render deep ploughing for parsnips and potatoes impracticable, which generally requires eight horses and four oxen to each plough, a custom has long prevailed here of helping one another at this time of need .. Little can be said in praise of the insular breed of horses; they are but ill formed, and generally worse kept.
Lest it be thought that Mr. Berry`s statement was extreme or that the conditions which he described were those only of a time long past, it is worth while to caompare with Mr. Berry`s paragraph the account given in the Annual Report of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society for 1858, describing conditions on the Island of Jersey in the year 1828. The Report says:
Let us bring to our remembrance the Jersey farm as it stood some thirty years ago, stocked with ill-fed and illshaped beasts, that knew not the taste of mangolds, carrots, or swedes, nor scarcely that of hay, whose winter food consisted chiefly of straw and a few watery turnips, and also the wretched stabling in which they were confined, without ventilation or drainage, where what is now appreciated as a valuable manure was allowed to waste away, or to remain stagnant till i tbecame productive of disease; further, the tillage of the soil carried on in the most primitive manner, without the least regard to order, cleanliness or appearance, where the hoe was unknown, and the broad hedge-row, abounding in brambles, served as a nursery for all manner of weeds, the seeds of which in general, being allowed to ripen, fell and flourished where should have been the clean crop.
De la Croix says of Jersey, - and we may well believe that his statement would be true of conditions on all the Islands, - the prior to the sixteenth century the inhabitants were in a condition of misery and poverty which we, in our days, can hardly imagine.
While the feudal system prevailed in Europe, open field farming with common of pastures was the rule on all the Channel Islands, and, where these conditions existed, there could be no developement of better agriculture. Improvement of cattle was impossible because, among other reasons, the male breeding animals were used in common and the female stock must all be pastured together. There were no travelers in those days who left records of what they saw on the Islands, but since the time when open field farming definitely began to give way to enclosed fields - in Guernsey first, followed by Jersey and Alderney - many travelers have visited the Islands and left excellent descriptions of the life there and of the activities of the inhabitants. Camden , who wrote in 1586, seems to have seen little open field farming on Guernsey. Nothing is said about conditions on Jersey in this respect, but of Alderney Camden says that it was not so much enclosed as the other Islands, so we may infer that there were still open field farms on Jersey and perhaps a few on Guernsey.
Besides agriculture on Jersey and commerce on Guernsey, there were two other sources of revenue which were important - fisheries and the knitting of woolen goods.
On Jersey the fishery was comparatively a minor matter, but on Guernsey it was of great importance, for the waters of the Channel were much richer in many kinds of fish than they are now, while the sea near the Channel Islands, Falle says, might have been called the Kingdom of Conger Eels, so great was the quantity taken and brought to market. If Falle`s figures be correct, it would seem that in the early years of the fourteenth century the annual catch of eels amounted to about eighty tons.
Apparently, next after bread, among persons of means, fish was long the staple article of diet in Europe. Guicciardini, who wrote in 1567, said of the herrings that came from the northern waters of the Atlantic ocean into the North Sea in the fall:
Ceste sorte de poisson .. se iectant vers terre, avec merueilleuse & incroyable multitude .. Il semble proprement, que ces poissons soyent enuoyez de la nature pour paistre l`homme; car il se viennent presenter pres le bord de la mer, & courent muser ou ilz voyens quelque feu, lumiere, ou creatures humaines, quasi disans: prens moy, prens moy.
That is, the herrings are in unbelievable multitudes, seemingly sent by nature to be the food of man, and swim toward the shore wherever they see fire, light or human beings, as though saying, take me, take me!
During Lent, Mr. Beriah Botfield says, in his comments on Manners and Household Expenses of England in the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, salted herring was a staple article of food in the household of the Countess of Leicester, - a sister of King Henry III and wife of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester - but at all seasons there was great use of fish. The best English lamprey eels were taken in the Severn, but those of Nantes were considered superior, and the conger eels of Rochelle were famous. Whale meat also, and grampus or porpoises were used on the table of the Countess, as on the royal table of King Henry III. It is obvious, Mr Botfield says, that the whale fishery ... must have been far more extensive than is supposed, to have furnished the European markets with the requisite quantity of fish. It is believed that England was supplied from Normandy; the whale fishery was early, and long, a source of wealth to the towns on the coast of that province."
Apparently the knitting industry was of about equal importance on both Guernsey and Jersey , - in fact, "after the decay of the fisheries which followed the discovery of Newfoundland, it constituted the staple trade of the Islands, and the memory of the manufacture still subsists in the name of "Guernsey Jackets" and "Jerseys", given to the close-fitting knitted garments worn by sailors." The knitting business, indeed, did so well that it occupied the time and attention of the larger part of the population, at the expense of agriculture, which declined so far that when, in 1627, war broke out with France, and the importation of knit stockings into the Cotentin and Brittany was forbidden, the inhabitants of Guernsey presented a petition to the Council for relief, saying that the knitting of stockings had been their sole resource. "So highly were the Guernsey woolen goods esteemed [in England] that they were considered a fitting present for Royalty, and, in 1556, Queen Mary did not disdain to receive from Sir Leonard Chamberlain, Governor of the Island, four waistcoats, four pair of sleeves, and four pair of hose of "Garnsey making". In the accounts of the Royal Scoth wardrobe for the year 1578, mention is made of woolen hose and gloves of Garnsey. In 1586 the Keeper of Queen Elisabeth`s wardrobe paid the high price of twenty shillings for one pair of knitted hose "de factura Garnescie," ... described as having the upper part and the clocks of silk. (Accounts of the Keeper of the Gt. Wardrobe, Elisabeth XXVIII to XXIX, A.D. 1586). And finally, the unfortunate Mary Stuart wore at her execution a pair of white Guernsey hose.
"The sheep kept in those days in the island were few in quantity, of an inferior breed, described by old writers as having four og more horns, producing coarse scanty wool, far from sufficient to furnish the supply of raw material required to meet the demand of the manufactured article. It was necessary, therefore, to have resource to England, but the restrictive laws of that day pohibited exporation of wool (from England), and it was only by special Acts of Parliament that a certain quantity, strictly limited, was allowed annually to leave the kingdom for the use of the islands. The Governor, who could succeed by his representations in getting this quantity increased, was sure to win the lasting gratitude of the people".
One would expect of small islands lying close to each other, and having almost identical political history, that they would be little difference in the life of the inhabitants. Guernsey, however, had had a good harbour from early days, while Jersey`s harbor was poor, with the result that Jerseymen were obliged to confine their attention to agriculture, while on Guernsey, Camden says,-
The inhabitants are not so good husbandmen as those of Jersey, but apply themselves to navigation and trade with more uncertain profits. Everyone, however, likes to cultivate his ground for himself so that the whole land is divided by hedges into small parts.
To Island communities largely occupied in knitting, sheep were important, and so Camden told of the sheep on Jersey. He spoke also of the general use on all the Islands of dried seaweed for fuel, but says nothing of Island cattle, though, had they been numerous or of interest in any way, they would as well have deserved mention as the sheep.
We can be sure, however, notwithstanding Camden`s silence on the subject, that there were cattle on the Islands, for the European races in all their migrations took their cattle with them.
Probably, in the beginning, cattle of the Channel Islands were of the race known as bos longifrons - the little Celtic ox - of which Professor Wilson says that it was the smallest of all the ox tribe which lived in a wild state in Europe, that its horns were small curving inward and forward, and that from the slender make of its bones, its body must rather have resembled a deer than our common tame ox. The Celtic ox, Professor T. McKenny Hughes says, "probably forms the basis of Channel Island cattle, though there is some reason for suspecting that this breed was introduced from a district where bos longifrons had long been improved into the variety to which the name bos frontosus is given".
Of the development of Channel Island cattle from bos longifrons or bos frontosus, we have no written history. We can find, however, in the development of some of the Swiss cattle, Professor Hughes says, an analogy which may furnish very useful evidence as to the origins of cattle in countries where bos longifrons was the prevailing type of ox at the time of the Roman invasion.
We know that the Romans occupied Switzerland, and there we must have had bos longifrons modified by crossing with the Roman breed. In accord with this we find today, along the low, rich lands around the mountains, the Roman type prevailing. The cattle are identical with those of Italy. But as we go further up into the mountains, the native shorthorned race has not been wholly superseded. The mixed breed resembles almost exactly that of the Channel Islands.
It is obvious derived from the native shorthorn modified by a cross with the larger southern cattle introduced by the Romans. It is whole-coloured, shaded from mouse or fawn colour, or from black or red, to light below. It has small horns growing outward from the side of the head, and turning more upward or forward, according as they take more after one or the other parent stock. The original Ayrshire breed has much the same characters.
In the early centuries of the Christian era it is possible, therefore, that the cattle of the Channel Islands were the result of a mixing of two races, the Celtic ox, bos longifrons or bos frontosus, and the Italian cattle brought into northern Europe at the time of the Roman invasion. To the race thus formed there was added, in the ninth and tenth centuries, a new element.
Shortly before the Norman conquest of England, the Norsemen brought to places on the English coast and on the mainland of Europe, also to the Channel Islands a race of cattle light dun in color and small in size, hornless, with a long "snake", head, narrow chine and loins, a deep body, short thin legs, sickle-shaped hocks, capable of giving a yield of milk richer than the milk of most other cattle. When these light dun animals were mated with red animals, the yellow color appeared in their descendants, as also horns in some cases. In this way the cattle of the Channel Islands are identified as of the Scandinavian race - by their coloring, the light dun and yellow, by their shapes, and by the quality of their milk. In the course of time, by the process of selection, the hornlessness of these cattle disappeared, as it did in the similar case of the Somersets and Devons in England and of cattle on the western coast of France, which also trace to Scandinavian origin. These Norse cattle, von Middendorff says, are lineal descendants of the hornless cattle of the ancient Scythians mentioned by Herodotus, which wandered northward from the southern part of modern Russia and then moved westward to Scandinavia.
It is hard under modern conditions, to realize that until after the middle of the 19th century it was important that only such cows be bought for use in the dairy as would fatten quickly and bring a good price from the butcher when lactation drew to an end. The advertisement of Hector in 1820, the fat Alderney bull (facing p. 301), picture of Mr. Le Poidwin`s ox exhibited in 1844 (facing p. 352), and the picture published in 1850 of Colonel Le Couteur`s cow Beauty (facing p. 342), are all valuable as showing the inheritance of beef production which good dairy cattle formerly carried.
It is known that Ayrshire, Shorthorn and other large cattle were imported into the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey during the period when efforts were made to improve Island Cattle, and The Times advertisements, with their mention of colors, which today are regarded as charastic of Ayrshire, Shorthorn and Holstein-Friesian cattle, show the great influence which these importations had upon the native cattle of the Islands.
There are four stages, or periods, which we are able to follow in the development of Channel Island cattle:
1. The stage in which Island cattle existed after the introduction of their Norse inheritance until the Islands felt the influence of the movement to improve meat-producing qualities of British cattle in the 18th century. During this long time the breeding of live stock on the Islands for a useful purpose was unknown, and cattle merely reproduced.
2. The stage mentioned by Hale in the middle of the 18th century when the movement to improve British cattle for the production of meat, by the use of cattle from Holland and Flanders, extended to the Channel Islands. The appearance and size of Island cattle changed at this time, but there were no famous Island breeders as there were famous English breeders.
3. The stage of neglect and decline which on the Islands extended from the latter part of the 18th century through the time of the Napoleonic wars until near the middle of the 19th century. In 1815 Mr. Thomas Quayle said of Island cattle that hitherto "no individual has attempted, by the selection of cattle, and breeding from them, to attain any particular object".
4. The stage of improvement which began not long before the middle of the 19th century with the development of Channel Island cattle as producers of meat, and later turned toward improvement of their dairy qualities. These objects were subsequently promoted by the organization of Jersey and Guernsey registry associations, first in AMerica and then on the Islands.
The first stage. No description of Channel Island cattle has been left to us by travelers who visited the Islands before the 18th century; but we may safely assume, in the absence of direct evidence, that the descendants of Norse cattle on the Islands were like the descendants of Norse cattle elsewhere - being small animals of broken colors, often yellow and white. In support of this assumption we have the statement made by Syvret that cows on the Island of Alderney were "generally speaking, small", and this is confirmed by the statement which appears in the 1742 edition of De Foe`s Tour through Britain, and which seems to have been taken from the 1732 edition, to the effect that on the Island of Jersey "the Cattle are inferior in Size to those elsewhere." No mention is made in this book of cattle on the Island of Guernsey.
In 1682 Warburton wrote his Treatise on the History, Laws and Costums of the Island of Guernsey, and there we read of wheat and barley as farm crops, of the keeping of cattle, horses, sheep, swine and poultry and of the use of butter; but there was no description of Channel Island cattle nor any suggestion that the farmers of Guernsey were interested in developing superior cattle, horses or poultry. Indeed, according to Warburton, the average egg-yield of Guernsey poultry was about 20 eggs per hen per year!
Difference between Jersey and Guernsey
Peter Heylyn visited the Islands in 1628 and gives a full account of many matters which Camden and Warburton had treated very briefly.
The soil on Guernsey, Heylyn says, is probably quite as good as that on Jersey,but the crops are not so good:
...because the people addict themselves to merchandise especially, leaving the care of husbandry unto their hindes. Yet Bread they have sufficient for their use; enough of Cattell, borth for themselves and for their ships; plenty of Fish continually brought in from the neighbour seas, and a Lake .. of about a mile or more in compasse, exceeding well stored with carpes, the best that mortall eye ever beheld for tast and bigness.
"Enough for their ships" is an illuminating phrase, for there is no suggestion that Guernsey ships at this time carried milch cattle. There were no strictly dairy cattle in the world when Heylyn wrote, and here - as though the point might need emphasis for those of to-day who think of Guernsey cattle as dairy animals - we have apparently the statement that three hundred years ago they were sufficient in number on the Island to provide the ships with meat which, of course, must have been salted, in addition to the meat, salt and fresh, which they provided for the Island.
Jersey, on the other hand, Heylyn says, carried a larger population than it could well support and, in consequence, was overwhelmed by poverty and want. The principal town on Jersey is St. Helier.
The other Villages lie scattered up and down, like those of Guernzey, and give habitation to a people very painfull and laborious; but by reason of their continuall toyle and labour, not a little affected to a kinde of melancholy surlinesse incident to plough men. Those of Guernzey on the other side, by continuall converse with stangers in their own haven, and by travailing abroad being much more sociable and generous. Add to this, that the people here are more poor, and therefore more destitute of humanity; the children here craving almes of very stranger; whereas in all Guernzey I did not see one begger.
There were many poor laws on the Island of Jersey during the 1600`s - one of which, that of April 8, 1862 referred to "the great existing scarcity of provisions, nearly approaching to a famine." Pauperism pressed heavily on the mind of the community. No hope of ameliorating conditions was seen and, in October, 1666, the States decided to petition the King for leave to send "to Ireland, to New England, to New Jersey, or to other places under the dominion of the Crown," the poor for whom they could not provide, as the only way to relieve "those who groaned in nakedness, hunger and misery."
The proposal to send paupers out of the Island appears to have been dropped, but the evils of pauperism continued and were not wholly confined to Jersey, for, in 1751, Thomas Dicey, in his account of the Island of Guernsey, speaks of the public streets as "abominably infested with common Beggars and Thieves."
Both Jersey and Guernsey were rich fields for superstition magic and witchcraft -especially Guernsey. Heylyn speaks of this in detail, and, as Ansted says, since Heylyn must have seen something of the same kind in England, superstition in Guernsey was probably excessive even for those times. The population of Guernsey, Mr. Alfred S. Campbell said in 1938 is "forty thousand people and several dozen witches".
In 1815, Willliam Berry made a similar comment. "Superstition," he said, "has not yet fled the Island - witches and hobglobin ghosts still alarm the ignorant and credulous, and certain old women have the credit of supernatural powers over man and beast". Apparently , the inhabitants of Guernsey have not even yet become so accustomed to modern ways of thought that all traces of these old beliefs have left the Island.
Neither Camden, Warburton nor Heylyn tells us anything about cattle on the islands, beyond Heylyn`s statement that there were on Guernsey "enough of Cattell both for themselves and their ships." On neither Island were the inhabitants engaged in the novel enterprise of developing a breed of dairy cattle, partly because there was at that time no such thing as a dairy industry which could use such cattle, and partly because it had not occurred to men three hundred years ago to anticipate the breeding work which, when carried on with beef cattle and sheep a hundred and fifty years later, made Robert Bakewell famous.
Of the sheep which Camden had described on the Island of Jersey, Philip Falle said in 1694.
These are no longer, or very rarely, seen. Being of the smallest kind, consequently not so profitable to the Owners, it put our People upon introducing a larger Breed from England, which with time and change of Pasture, are sunk again into a less size.
Evidently, as animal breeders, Jerseymen were no more successful with their sheep than Guernseymen had been with their horses - mentioned by Mr. Berry - and their egg-laying poultry.
Poverty and the sale of Island cows and heifers. Jersey and ALderney had on their hands during the 17th and 18th centuries a problem not unlike that which is before the people of Great Britain at the present day, for there was a large population on Jersey and ALderney for which the Islands did not produce an adequate supply of food. What these small Islands could not raise must consequently be secured, so far as possible, by purchase abroad, selling their native products to pay for grain so bought; and so the Channel Island sold cows and heifers - halffed cows that had been kept in indescribable filth.
Coming from poverty-stricken lands, where all domestic stock degenerated, the cows sent from the Channel Islands to England must have brought small prices as compared with the prices paid for native English cows, but they were at least saleable. "There is no greater profit to be made," Richard Blome said in 1686, "than by Cows, either in raising and breeding them up, or by buying them when in Calf, and selling them with their Calf by their sides, especially near London." "Milk Cows are never equal to the demand," is the statement in Thomas Bates` notes of the lectures which he heard from Dr. Coventry at Edinburgh University, to which he went in November, 1809.
These statsments referred, of course, to British cows that had been fed and kept after the British manner of the time, but poorer cattle would be taken at a lower price, and the English market was ready to take, upon its own terms, whatever cows and heifers as the Islands might offer either as dairy or meat animals, - such as they were - or as dwarf curiosities. Cows and heifers were sold, therefore, to English dairy farmers for what they would bring. Channel Island cows, the English Guernsey Cattle Society says, did not find great favor in England before the 19th century, but buyers were not very exacting in their requirements, since "in the principal counties farmers were content to buy, in order to keep up their stock, whatever chance brought to their hands."
Island farmers would of course, have been very willing to sell bulls, but Channel Island bulls were not wanted in England for breeding purposes during the 18th century. The importation of Dutch cattle, by which the great improvement in British animals was accomplished, was just commencing in England when exportation of cows and heifers from the Channel Islands began, and it was Dutch cattle that English breeders wanted. Robert Bakewell was still unknown at this time and the dairy industry was in its infancy.
A parallel of this Channel Island trade in cows and heifers sold to England can be found in the sale of cows and heifers of the Noman breed, sent from Normandy to supply the dairies near Paris. This trade was well described by M. Guenon as follows:
Breeders in this province (Normandy) rely chiefly on raising females as replacements for the dairies supplying milk to the capital .. Unweaned calves of this breed are remarkable for good looks and for the whiteness of their flesh, which goes to Paris markets.
The bulls born in Normandy, being hardly used at all elsewhere are not shipped out of the province undtil they are fattened and have reached an age between four and six years, when they are sold to the butcher. Cows also are fattened for beef as soon as they cease to give milk.
Channel Island cows, like cows of the neighboring province, were of the Norman or French race and as good for use in London dairies as were the cows sent from Normandy for use in Paris dairies, and, when milk production began to shrink, were fattened for the butcher. Thus the trade with England in cows and heifers arose on Jersey and Alderney at an early date - the first appearance of Channel Island cattle on what seemed a fairly large scale in great European markets. In England, Channel Island bulls were rarely wanted for breeding with Alderney cattle, but when young, made veal, and when old, made bull beef - like Normandy bulls in France - or were used in the yoke as steers.
When George Syvret wrote his account of the Islands, he told of cattle on both the Islands of Jersey and ALderney. A large cow and heifer trade had not at this time arisen on the Island of Guernsey, and, for this reason, although Syvret gave a full account of this Island, he had nothing to say of Guernsey cattle. Of farms on Jersey Syvret said:
Their pastures are excellent and their cows furnish very good butter although it is rather white. They have abundant harvests and nevertheless the population is so large in proportion to the size of the Island that they are obliged to import a third of the grain they consume. But to pay for the grain, they ship to England cows that are well liked there, and also a large quantity of cider coming from the orchards which have been much enlarged in recent years.
Apparently, so far as concerned Jerseymen, the cider was, for the purpose of paying for the grain which had been bought abroad, as important a product as were the cows. "I do not think there is any Country in the World," Falle said, "that (on the same Extent of Ground) produces so much Cider as Jersey does, no not Normandy itself," and the importance of both cows and cider was that they could be exported to pay for the grain bought in foreign markets.
A similar, though shorter, reference was made to Alderney cows, in regard to which Syvret said:
The cow raised on this island are, generally speaking small; but they give very good butter and are much liked in England, whither Alderney farmers ship them every year.
There was a marked betterment of living conditions in England during the 18th century at the time when the importation of Dutch cattle began the great movement for the improvement of british breeds.
The second stage then, in the written history of Channel Island cattle begins about the middle of the 18th century, when the Channel Islands began to feel the influence of the English movement. Conditions on the Islands, however, were hard, and an interest in breeding arose not only much later than in England, but after it had arisen it seemed to grow slowly, as would be natural in the case of an imported interest not spontaneous on the Islands.
We have already noticed Warburton`s statement in 1682 that the average egg yield of Guernsey poultry was about 20 eggs per year per hen. At first this strikes the reader as too small a figure. Even mediaeval hens, we are tempted to say, must have laid more eggs than that, and, nevertheless, upon further reflection, when we learn of the lack of food on the Islands, Warburton`s statement takes on a different aspect. We are not surprised, therefore, to read Falle`s account in 1734 of the degeneration of sheep on the Island of Jersey which seems, indeed, to have been a continous process, for the Islanders were never able to maintain the quality of the sheep which they imported.
Of course, a prosperous animal husbandry can not be carried on where food is short, nor can agricultural communication, living under such conditions as those which prevailed on the Channel Islands, maintain an agriculture comparable to that of more advanced countries.
What the Island movement was is shown by the Compleat Body of Husbandry, "compiled from the Original Papers of the late Thomas Hale," of which the first edition was published in London in 1756. This is the earliest book which gives a written description of Channel Island cattle, and its statement is that of all the dairy cattle in England, "the fine Kinds are the Dutch and Alderney cows, these are very like one another in Shape, and in their Goodness, but the Alderney Cow is preferable, because she is hardier," - the word Alderney being used at this time for all Channel Island cattle.
Until the influence of British breeding began to make itself felt on the Islands, as described by Mr. Thomas Hale, Island cattle were small animals indistinguishable from the Norman cattle on the adjoining coast; but after the importation of cattle from England, there were on the Islands some large cattle similar to the Dutch cattle which had been imported.
It is probable that the first cows imported into England from these Islands were sent from ALderney, and that the name had been continued to retain such market as might have been secured under this name. Sometimes the word Alderney seems to be used for Jersey, as when we see Alderney and Guernsey cattle advertised together. At other times, Alderney and Guernsey are synonymous, as when mention is made of "Alderney cows just imported from Guernsey." Of the large animals among Channel Island cows, Mr. Hale said that they were like the Dutch cattle in the shortness of their horns, that they required rich feeding, and are equal to the other (i.e., to Dutch cattle) in the quantity and goodness of their Milk.
No definite statement is made as to the size or color of these new large Island Cattle, but since they had the shape of Dutch cattle and gave good quantities of such milk as was given by Dutch cattle, it seems that the Dutch influence must have brought to Island cattle a development in size and color like that which it had brought to the cattle of England.
Immemorial laws indeed, evidently had not prevented Dutch cattle from entering the Islands and breeding there, until many animals among the two races - the Dutch and the Alderney - were become so much alike that John Ball in the Farmer`s Compleat Guide, published in London in 1760, spoke of these races as though they were one breed, , for, in discussing the shape of a good row, after speaking of other details, he says:
The eyes should be large and the forehead broad, the horns short and bent, if it be of the Dutch or Alderney breed .. etc.
After the middle of the century, therefore, the cows and heifers exported to England were no longer solely the small Norman cows with which the trade had begun, but contained both varieties of Channel Island cattle, - the large and the small with many intermediate sizes; the large being the new or improved kind of Channel Island cattle, while the small were the original Norman variety.
Trade Statistics. The Port Books. The story of the exportation of cows and heifers from the Channel Islands to England is confirmed by such trade statistics as still exist for Channel Island shipments during the 18th century.
Before the 19th century it was not the practice to keep detailed statistics of any kind, and, although the development of commerce after the 16th century necessitated at least some elementary form of book-keeping, such documents as are preserved are neither complete nor altogether reliable.Even today trade statistics are not as accurate as could be desired. At a time communications were difficult and the keeping of statistics an undeveloped art, considerable allowance must be made for the figures that were kept. Besides the inaccuracy which comes from inexperience, there were also two other ascpects of 18th century life - smuggling and corruption - which added their influence to distort the figures. ALthough there was a great deal of illicit trade between the Channel Islands and the south coast of England, it does not seem likely that Channel Island cattle were smuggled, there being no duty on their importation from the Islands. It is clear that some customs officers neglected to enter cargoes, which included cattle. This may have been done in return for monetary reward, falsified to make the import trade with France seem smaller than it actually was, for at that time the French trade was generally considered disadvantageeous. This is one explanantion of the custom of entering French cattle as Channel Island cattle. Another explanation is that cattle imported from France were subject to a duty on entering England while Island cattle entered free.
The most detailed sources which exist of this Island cattle trade are the Port Books, preserved at the Public Record Office, Chancery Lane, London. These books, which were compiled by the Harbour and Customs authorities after the middle of the 16th century, state the port of origin, port of unloading, name of the importer, name and master of the ship, etc., and give a fairly complete picture of the trade in certain years. Not least valuable is the fact that record is made of the sex and kind of animal imported.
Unfortunately, there were no Port Books vompiled after the third quarter of the 18th century, and it is, therefore, possible to discover from this source nothing more than a few details of the early development of the trade, and these only to an extremely unsatisfactory extent. It was not until thirty years ago that the value of these books was realized and, in the meanwhile many books had been lost. Of those remaining, may are unfit for examination, many are illegible in places; and for most years and most ports, records of the coastal trade only have been preserved. Where foreign trade records are available, it is unusual to find a year in which such records may be examined for all the ports to which Channel Island cattle were brought. Within these limitations, however, the Port Books, so far as they go, are the most accurate 18th century sources available, for, although local officials may corruptly have passed over some cargoes, there was probably no large scale falsification of accounts.
The Customs House Books. The records of Imports and Exports preserved at the Customs House, Lower Thames Street, Billingsgate, London, provide the most complete, although not very accurate, set of statistics existing for the 18th century, and from them the whole early period of the trade can be traced. Unfortunately, these reecords do not go beyond 1776, as in the middle of the 19th century a fire took place at The Customs House which destroyed all other records there preserved.
These records provide only crude statistics for the trade. No record is made of the port through which the cattle entered, as distinction is drawn only between London and the "Outports," which include alle the Provincial ports. No cattle, however, were imported from the Channel Islands to London, and we know from the Port Books that the greater volume of the trade came through Southampton. Except where stated, the animals are classed as "cows and heifers" or "cows or heifers," and in one year, 1739-40, were listed as "cattle".
The figures must be handled with extreme care, as they are not at all reliable and show no more than the general trend of the trade. It can be seen at a glance that the statistics of the Customs records in no way coincide with the Port Book figures.
In the two years for which the Port Books give the completest records; namely, 1751 and 1752, there is a great discrepancy, as the following table shows:
Port Books Customs Records
Year Total Total
1751 203 314
1752 235 339
The fact that the Port Books for these years do not record the imports of the smaller ports cannot account for a 30% discrepany. We are, therefore, bound to conclude that the Customs records over-state the import trade from the Islands by, roughly, one-third. To some extent this was due to causes already mentioned - corruption, difficulties in computation etc.; but the main cause is most likely to be found in the practice of importing cattle from France by way of Jersey and Guernsey and entering them as Island Cattle, to escape Customs duty levied upon cattle brought directly from France.
The accounts and papers also include abstracts showing figures for the different descriptions of animals imported, but no separate heading was accorded to the Channel Islands, which appear to have been included under France.
For the later period, after 1849, statistics may be found in the Accounts and Papers - Trade and Navigation Section, preserved at the State Paper Office, The British Museum, but unfortunately these records, upon which full reliance may be placed were made only after the year 1849. Neither are they very informative since no distinction was made between cows and bulls until after the year 1867.
There are, then, statistics covering the periods 17201776 and 1849-1880 leaving a gap of some seventy-five years. It was hoped that books could be found in the Channel Islands themselves which would complete the record. Such books were, indeed, kept, for the Harbour Masters on the Islands had a full record of all exports, but unfortunately these were systematically destroyed, - it is said, after three years - and most valuable records of the trade have thus been lost.
The figures which the Books give for 18th century shipments
Port Books show no shipments of cattle to England from the Islands before 1732. Customs House Books, on the other hand, show many shipments of cows and heifers, beginning in 1724 and including, in 1729-30, a shipment of 27 "black cattle" from Jersey. This term, as used a couple of hundred years ago, did not, however, necessarily refer to color, for, at that time, animals of the bovine race were known in Great Britain as black cattle, whatever their color. The shipment from Jersey may have included bulls, but more likely was composed of cows, or cows and heifers, like other shipments of the time.
In 1732, the Port Books show a shipment of nine "cattle" from Alderney. Customs House Books of 1732-33 show a shipment of cows and heifers "and 4 bullocks". This is the only time the word bullocks is used either in Port or Customs House Books, and it probably represents steers shipped for labor or for food, as Durell used the word in his notes to Falle`s History (page 373); or as Berry used the word in describing the plough oxen of Guernsey; and as Mr. Gow defined this word on page 40 of his book. Few bulls, however, were shipped from the Islands, as will be seen later (p. 296) in considering the purposes for which Island bulls were used in England.
The cow and heifer trade of the late 18th century.
Some recent writers have thought that they could find in this cow and heifer trade a proof, not that the poverty of the Islands was great and pressing, but that Island cattle were much sought in England on account of high dairy qualities. This effort, which the English Guernsey Society expressly repudiated, appears first in a paragraph of an introductory article on Jersey Cattle, written by the Secretary of the AMerican Jersey Cattle Club, and published in the first volume of the American Herd Register, issued in 1872. The paragraph purports to deal with the history of the Jersey breed, and runs as follows:
The "Alderney" cow has been held in high repute as a producer of cream and butter ever since the days when Tabitha Bramble wrote, in 1771, to Mrs. Gwylim, housekeeper at Brambleton Hall, "I am astonished that Mr. Lewis should take upon him to give away ALderney without my privity and concurrents.. Alderney gave four gallons a day ever since the calf was sent to market."
Any one reading the statement in this paragraph would have a right to understand that there had been an actual person in the flesh named Tabitha Bramble, and that she wrote a letter about a cow. The statement, nevertheless, is without foundation in fact, for the paragraph refers to an incident in Smollett`s novel Humphrey Clinker. The lady named Tabitha Bramble never lived, and the cow Alderney was an imaginary animal created by Smollett`s genius.
It is difficult to find an apology for the writer who originally put this fiction forward as fact, for it seems that he must have known the source of the incident which he recited.
This misleading paragraph was, however, accepted by Mr. Charles L. Hill, who, without knowledge of its fictitious character, and in entire good faith copied it in his book on The Guernsey Breed (p. 42). What should be said, however, of Mr. Gow, who, in his book The Jersey, published by The American Jersey Cattle Club in 1936, re-tels the Humphrey Clinker incident, with the alteration, however, which appears to be Mr. Gow`s individual contribution to the rising legend, that Alderney was not given away, but was sold? Edward Gibbon said of two historical writers whom he names that they were "very learned and tolerably honest". Part of this comment can be applied to some of the writings which have been published as Channel Island history.
In this case, the story which Mr. Gow tells may not much misrepresent the agriculture of the Islands, since Alderney cows in considerable numbers were used in English dairies during the 18th century. There are, however, other statements in Mr. Gows book, and in other books and pamphlets relating to Channel Island cattle, published since the early years of the 19th century, for which no apology can be made.
In 1771 John Shebbeare said of the shipment of cows from Jersey to England:
The natural productions of this Island (Jersey) are such as will not permit an export, and these are chiefly the Jersey cows, which are esteemed in England for the excellency of their milk.
Shebbeare`s sentence is somewhat confused in form, since the Jersey cows which were esteemed in England must have been exported from Jersey. The meaning of the sentence probably is that, although Jersey farmers did not raise cows for the purpose of export, and possibly could not well spare the cows they had raised, nevertheless, sale was necessary, since, as Shebbeare says; ".. the island does not, in the most abundant years, produce by one-third what is sufficient for the bread of the inhabitants, and that deficiency is generally supplied from his kingdom."
The account which Shebbeare had given of Jersey resembles the account of Guernsey given in 1815 by William Berry, who said:
The produce of the Island itself, being scarcely in any one thing sufficient for the consumption of the inhabitants, cannot be expected to figure much in the account of its trade. A few cows are exported to England, on account of their good qualities, at high prices; and its paving stones of blue granite, the hardest that can be found have been sent to England..
Apparently, cows and heifers both from the Channel Islands and from Normandy were cheaper in England than native cattle, and so as time passed there was constantly greater use of Channel Island and Normandy cows in English dairies, for the Customs House Books show a steady increase in the number of cattle brought to England from Channel Island ports. At first, the trade had been small, since during the ten years for which records exist between 1724-25 and 1734-35 there were, according to these books, no more than 504 animals carried from the Channel Islands to England. In the eight years, however, for which records exist, between 1744-45 and 1754-55, there were 1910 animals carried, and in ten years for which records exist, between 1764-65 and 1774-75, there were 6306 animals carried. These figures are much larger than those contained in the Port Books, and it seems, therefore, that the sale of French cattle which had been imported into the Islands and then shipped to England was rapidly supplanting the trade in native Island cattle.
The origin of the Jersey and Guernsey Ordinances.
We have no statistics for the trade during the 18th century after 1776, but if its rate of growth continued, as shown by the figures given above, it may well have reached large figures by 1789. It probably seemed to Jersey farmers that Normandy was pouring her cattle population through the Island into England as through a chute. Prices of French cattle were lower than the prices asked by Jerseymen for their cattle, notwithstanding that Normandy was "renowned for its diminutive but precious breed of cattle," and so the market went more to the French. Channel Island farmers were unwilling to reduce their prices, and the final result was that shipment of cattle from France to Jersey and Guernsey - a trade which had long existed unrestrained by law - was forbidden by a Jersey statute of 1789 and by a Guernsey statute of 1819.
The practice had been to bring cows from France into the Islands and later to ship them to England, where they were admitted free of duty because they came from the Islands. It seems that in the case of animals brought from France to Jersey or Guernsey for the purpose of shipment to England, the English courts might reasonably have regarded the practice as an evasion of British customs charges, while British buyers might well complain if they desired Island cows and had been misled into buying French cows. No complaint could be made, however, by the government of Jersey and Guernsey, since the trade existed only because permitted by the laws of these Islands, and there was no evasion of Island laws. Jerseymen who sold the cattle could not complain, and it is doubtful even that English buyers were misled, since they were getting, at a lower price than prevailed for Island cattle, animals which were indistinguishable from Island cattle.
Nevertheless, the trade had so grown that it threaened the profits from the sale of cows and heifers raised on the Island of Jersey. The trade in French cows had, of course, brought profits to Jersey which Jerseymen never overlooked; but, on the whole, the sale of domestic animals paid the best, and so the French trade was stopped. It seems wrong that the trade should be called fraudulent by those who had permitted and profited by it, but, nevertheless, this was done by the Jersey statute of August 8, 1789, which reads as follows
[Faximile fra London Times. HN.]
Alderney for Ladies and Gentlemen to ornament Country Places
To be sold - Alderney Cows. -The greatest market in England. - Is now for Sale, in the Meadows, belonging to the Earl of Dysart, at Ham, near Richmond, arrived this day, from Southampton, Twenty Alderney Cows some with calves by their side, some in full milk; they are fancy colours, fit for a Gentleman`s park or lawn; from twenty to thirty will continue this year in the above meadows. Enquire at the Crooked Billet, at Ham, near Richmond, Surrey.
[London Times, December 14, 1809.]
Alderney Cows - Mr. John Morant acquaints the Public in general, that he will supply any Ladies or Gentlemen, who may e pleased to favour him with their commands. with any quantity they shall please to order, of good ALderney Cows, on the shortest notice and most reasonable terms. He requests they will be pleased to mention the age and colour they wish to have. Their obliging orders will he punctually attended to.
Address, post paid, to John Morant, SOuthampton.
[London Times, June 9, 1811]
Early Advertisements of the Cow and Heifer Trade.
Handsome and large
Alderney Cows. - A regular supply is kept of prime Stock of the genuine Breed, and forwarded to any part of the Kingdom by careful drovers; some very handsome ones; also some particular large Guernsey`s just arrived, that have not been landed a fortnight. Apply at Park Farm, Washwey, Brixton, Surrey.
[London Times, June 9, 1817]
Alderney Cows. - The Public having long been imposed upon by the sale of a spurious and diminutive breed of cattle under the above appellation, any persons wishing to purchase cows of the genuine breed, will be faithfully supplied with them by application to Messrs. P?? and Bienvenu, Southampton and to Mr. Thomas Martin, or Mr. John Sanford, Weymouth.
[London Times, July 26, 1817.]
The Genuine Breed
The mention of prime stock of the genuine Breed.. "also" some particular large Guernseys, suggests that the small animals, not the large Guernseys were of "the genuine breed".
Faximile afsluttes HN]
The fraudulent importation of cows, heifers, calves and bulls from France having become a matter most alarming to the country in that it not only contributes to raise butcher`s meat to an exorbitant price, but that it also menaces with total ruin one of the most profitable branches of the commerce of this island with England, the States have judged it necessary to enact:
Art. I. That whoever shall introduce into this island any cows, heifers, calves or bulls from France shall be subject to a penalty of 200 livres for each animal so brought in, with the forfeiture of boat and tackle ... etc.
To most Americans, the Channel Islands are associated with the thought of Channel Island cattle. The names ALderney, Jersey and Guernsey bring up memories of the pictures of cows from these islands, painted by Edwin Douglas, and of the well known picture of ALderney Bull, Cow and Calf painted by James Ward. The islands, doubtless, had many different products of which Americans generally know little but island cattle were a product which everybody knew. It is surprising, then, to learn that the breeding and sale of cows has always been a minor interest on the islands, and that even in recent years, when this trade was at its highest point, the island trade in early vegetables and other horticultural products was mucch the more important.
In 1817, Mr. Plees said that the chief product of Jersey was cider, of which as much as 36.000 hogsheads were made in a year and of which the average production was probably 24.000 hogsheads.
There is sufficient cause for asserting that the island might by greater attention be rendered much more productive. In the north in a variety of places the lands bordering on the sea are little better than heaths; on these are seen only a few sheep or goats browsing; and yet, merely separated from those open parts by a low wall of stones loosely piled up, may occasionally be found crops of corn, whose appearance evinces taht more of this apparently infertile ground might be rendered equally prolific.....
Of domestic creatures the horses are small but hardy, though frequently worked at a very early age. The cows are of that breed known in England by the name of Alderney cows; the far greater number, however, if not all, are now sent from Jersey. They are smaller and more delicately formed than the English cows, and yet the oxen are sometimes very large and strongly limbed. These last are employed in the labor of the field and frequently placed in the shafts of a country cart with two horses in front. The sheep are diminutive and mostly black. In a very few places the breed of goats is encouraged...
Jersey receives from England corn, flour, live and dead stock, fish, seeds, cloth and generally speaking all things necessary for subsistence..
In return for these Jersey sends to England, cider, cows, knit worsted stockings, and in some years potatoes.
Evidently, there was no popular breed of island cows in Mr. Plees`time, for no reference is made to the shipment of bulls, the word "breed" being used in speaking of ALderney cows as it was used in the same paragraph in speaking of "the breed of goats" as distinguished from sheep.
Beyond the broad facts of Jersey history and trade already stated, we know little as to the circumstances which surrounded the passage of the Jersey ordinance. Thirty years later, however, Guernsey followed the lead of Jersey, excluding French cattle from the Island, and at this time the advertisements of cattle dealers in the London Times - which had been established after the passage of the Jersey ordinance and before the Guernsey ordinance - give a clear picture of the situation.
Trade in Island cattle had become so active by the beginning of the 19th century, that there were many dealers in Island cattle, and competition between them was keen. In 1818, shipments to England were so large, it was said, that they had "completely drained the Islands", and in consequence the prices of cattle had somewhat advanced, as, indeed, would be expected.A large trade, with prices which to Island farmers were high, was surely an advantage that the Islands were glad to enjoy, and they sought to keep its benefits to themselves. They insisted that French cattle were inferior to the "true or genuine" breed of Island cattle, while, at the same time, all agreed that there were many cattle on the Islands not of the true og genuine breed, and, since Island cattle were of all sorts and sizes, no efforts to describe the true breed were, or could be made. There were charges, however, that the public had been imposed upon by the sale, under the name of Alderneys, "of a spurious and diminutive breed of cattle" - French cattle, with such cattle from the islands of Jersey and Guernsey as were not "true and genuine," being apparently included in this term. These statements broke out later into direct charges of fraud, one dealer professing that his practice of marking his cattle with fixed prices showed his own "integrity in the mode of dealing", while he protested "against the frauds practised by itinerant venders who sell a spurious breed." Suggestions of fraud, not explicitly charged, appear also in the significant statement, which some advertisers make, that they sell " the genuine breed," and in the statement by a dealer that he sells "the true breed" or "breeds", as though other breeders, not named, sold cattle that were of a breed that was neither "genuine" nor "true".
The Guernsey ordinance was adopted on June 22, 1819, for the purpose of giving Guernsey the fulle benefit of English trade by excluding all French cattle from the Island. This is the chief purpose of the ordinance, but to it is added a profession, not in the Jersey ordinance of 1789, that the further purpose of the statute was to keep the cattle of the Island free from foreign intermixture. In view of the heterogeneous mixture of cattle already on the Island, of which something will be said later, and of the fact that no restraint was imposed upon importation from any other country than France, this profession in the Guernsey statute can be regarded as of commercial importance only, intended to promote the trade of dealers who sold Guernsey cattle and to give currency to the idea that there was, in fact, a distinctively Island breed which could be recognized as "genuine".
All this was thirty years after the date of the Jersey ordinance, and the controversy, which probably begang before the Jersey ordinance was adopted, did not subside with the adoption of the Guernsey ordinance. There was evidently a general disbelief in the good quality of Island cattle which no ordinance could change, and so professions of fair dealing were numerous. One advertiser says that the cattle he sells are "of the choicest breeds" ; while still others profess to regard cattle from the little Island of Alderney as the only reservoir of Channel Island cattle remaining uncontaminated, since on this Island they say "particular care is taken to keep the breed genuine," adding the assurance:
N.B. The authenticity of this information can be relied on.