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History of Jersey Island Cattle (1880)

[N.R.Pike:Herd Book of the Maine State Jersey Cattle Association. Volume II. Portland. 1880.]

In a work of this kind it may be considered appropriate that a History of the Breed to which the work is devoted should be given. Taking this view of the matter, we are disposed to favor its patrons with a condensed history of the Jersey.
Just how or when this celebrated breed of cattle originated is somewhat obscure. But the theory is uniformly accepted that the Channel Islands cattle originated from Normandy stock. And certainly the geographical position of these islands, and the fact that they were settled by people from the northern coast of France, and the great external similarity existing between the cattle of this coast and the Jersey Island, are strong circumstantial proofs is favor of this tradition; especially as it is nowhere claimed that the Jersey, like most other breed of improved animals, is the result of crossing two or more breeds.
From the foregoing facts in their history, it is evident that the Jersey was evolved by careful and judicious breeding from selected specimens of such cattle as were taken to the island at the time it was taken possession of by the Normans. Whether this theory is correct or otherwise is, at this late day in their history, of but slight importance to us. Practically, it is enough for us to know that the breed exists, and has existed for more than a century, and is possessed of definite and well-defined characteristics belonging to no other breed of cattle. Among the most  prominent points in these characteristiscs is the capacity to appropriate food to a greater extent than any other breed, in the production, unequaled in yield, texture, golden color and delicious flavor of butter.
The Island of Jersey contains about forty thousand acres of land, of which twenty-five thousand are cultivated. Its population numbers fifty-six thousand, or about two and one fourth for each cultivated acre. These enterprising people, though subjects of Great Britain, are permitted to enact their own laws regulating their internal interests; and long since they, being cognizant of the fact that they had a breed of cows superior to all others for the dairy, guarded jealously their purity by enactments, under heavy penalties, against the introduction of foreiegn cattle. On this point Col. Leconture [ Le Couteur ], a resident of Jersey entirely familiar with the subject, writes: "An act of their local legislature, as early as 1789, prohibited the importation into Jersey of any cow, heifer, or bull, under the penalty of 200 livres with the forfeiture of the boat and tackle, besides a fine of 50 livres imposed on every sailor on board who did not inform of the attempt at importation. Moreover , the animal was to be immediately slaughtered and its flesh given to the poor."
Later laws are equally stringent. No foreign cattle are ever allowed to come to Jersey but as butcher`s meat.
The foregoing is, perhaps, all there is of interest in the history of the Jersey on  its native island, and we will now notice something of their introduction and history in this country.
The exact time of their first introduction into this country is uncertain. The first, however, of which we have any reliable data is of a three years old Alderney heifer, imported by Richard Morris, of Philadelphia, in the year 1817. In writing of this heifer he says: "She is a small animal, requiring less food than ordinary stock, nd yields 9½ lbs. of butter per week." The few imporations made from this time to 1840 demonstrated the fact that the Jersey possessed great merit as a dairy cow, and from this time importations became more frequent.
About the year 1850 such promonent gentlemen as the Henshaws, Motleys, Taintors, Cushing, Thayer, George Bacon and several other progressive breeders, began to make frequent and somewhat extensive importations of the best animals procurable on the islands of Jersey and ALderney, paying in some instances as high as 125 guineas for choice animals. The heifer "Flora," imported by Thomas Motley, in 1851, yielded two years after ,five hundred and eleven pounds of butter in fifty consecutive weeks. And to us it should be a matter of congratulation that the blood of animals imported by these gentlemen predominates in most of the Maine Jerseys.

Dr. Ezekiel Holmes, at that time editor of the Maine Farmer, Maj. Thomas Harward, of Bath, and W.S. Grant, of Farmingdale, were the first to introduce the Jersey into Maine, about the year 1855; and although at first much prejudice existed against  these specimens, on account of a lack of development as beef animals, they soon created a sensation among dairymen, and quickly established for themselves the reputation accorded to the Jersey in localities where earlier introduced. Since that time the Jersey has become widely desseminated, and as a rule maintain their well-earned reputation in the dairy. Yet we admit, with regret, that through some of the later importations of inferior animals, and through a lack of proper regard in making selections for breeding purposes, and neglect in feeding such food as is best suited to develop a dairy capacity, there are in this, as from similar causes in all other breeds of improved animals, families, or strains, that have degenerated to the condition of ordinary stock. These facts are worthy of attention, and should be better understood and guarded against. Yet, perhaps, all that is proper for us to say here, on this point, is that the failures from these causes are suggestive of the remedies.
The most important deductions to be drawn from the history of the Jerseys are,
First, that by continued judicious selections, and strict adherence to the natural laws, as applied to food and development, a welldefined and distinct breed of animals may be evolved.
Second, that the characteristics of the best established breeds may be modified or changed at the pleasure of the breeder.
Third, that whatever improvements may have been made by selection and feed, may all be lost by failing to continue the same  favorable conditions that developed the breed and its characteristics.
These facts admonish breeders that it is more easy to degenerate a breed than to improve it, or even keep it up to a high state of artificial development, and that nothing short of unremitted violance, and strict fidelity to be fundamental principles of improvement in animals bred for the dairy, will perpetuate the high standing to which the Jersey has attained.

N.R. Pike.
 
 
 

 
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