Unfortunately no irrefutable records are available as to the correct date the first Jersey was imported into South Africa.
It is, however, generally accepted that the first Jerseys were imported by Mr. Andrian van der Byl of Roodebloem Estate, Woodstock, Cape, from Jersey Island, in the early 1880`s, with 1881 as the most probable date.
Andrian van der Byl
Mr. G. Harcourt Vernon, Keble, Clocolan, O.F.S., in a letter to me dated October 4, quoted information obtained from the dairy of his father the late Rev. Harcourt Vernon: "My father bought some Jersey females from Mr. Andrian van der Byl in 1893. Amongst them was the cow Buttercup born in 1889, whose great-granddam was the cow Eva imported by Andrian van der Byl i 1877." I can, unfortunately, find no further reference to this date, but this date is not out of the question, if we take into consideration that Bridesmaid born on August 27, 1891, was the great-great-granddaughter of Eva.
Lawrence Green writes in Grow Lovely, Growing Old: "Dr. Jonas Michiel Hiddingh died in 1888 and his nephew Michiel became heir to a great deal of the valuable property and a very large income. Michiel Hiddingh cared for none of this. He liked the doctor`s Jersey cattle and attended personally to their ailments."
No mention is, however, made of the year Dr. Hiddingh started with Jerseys. It might have been any date between 1859, when he bought Newlands House and the large surrounding estate, and 1888. No mention is also made of the origin of the animals.
The possibility, that Jersey cows might have been landed as "ship cows" in S.A. before 1881, cannot be excluded in view of the fact that records available in the Archives in Cape Town make mention of Friesland cows which were brought as "ship cows" to S.A. and landed in Cape Town. It stands to reason hat the possibility cannot be excluded that Jersey cow might also have been used as "ship cows" by the British ships.
As a result of insufficient authentic proof of the actual date of the importation of the first Jersey into S.A, it would appear that 1881 might, under these circumstances, be the most acceptable date and that Andrian van der Byl be considered the first importer of Jerseys.
[Gabriel Daniel Nel: Jerseys in Southern Africa. Cape Town, Tafelberg 1968]
According to G.W. Johnston: "It is said that as a boy Andrian van der Byl was sent to school at the Victoria College on the Island of Jersey and there learned to appreciate the Jersey. He was probably the only man in South Africa in the early days, who really knew much about Jerseys."