Alvin Howard Sanders - The National Geographic Magazine. December 1925
On the French side of the English Channel within sight of the west coast of Normandy, lie the Channel Islands. Formerly they belonged to France, but since the year 1204 they have been under British sovereignty. Of these islands, only four are important - Jersey, Guernsey, ALderney, and Sark - in the order given. It has been assumed that at one time these islands were a part of the French mainland.
Jersey is about twelve miles long and seven miles wide and contains nearly 40.000 acres. Its north shore consists of high cliffs, from which the land gradually slopes southward to St. Aubin`s Bay and the city of St. Helier. The island is divided into twelve parishes and has a population of about 50.000. The climate is extremely mild and the island is a popular health resort.
Jersey is an agricultural island, some 25.000 acres being under tillage. Potato growing and the breeding of Jersey cattle are the two leading industries. The farms are small, commonly ranging from two to five acres, yet 500.000 bushels of potatoes have been harvested here in a season. Some 10.000 head of cattle are maintained on Jersey, in the open air most of the year, tethered on the rich pastures by a combination rope and chain fastened to an iron peg in the ground. Here they are systematically grazed, the tethered animal being moved forward to fresh grazing as the necessity arises.
The ancestry of Jersey cattle is obscure. It is commonly thought, however, that they are descended from French cattle; the fawn or white color has been attributed to the cattle of Normandy and the darker color to those of Britanny.
The people of Jersey many years ago recognized the value of their cattle and early adopted measures to protect the purity of the breed. As early as 1763 the island legislature prohibited importations from France. In 1789 a law was passed making importations from France, except for immediate slaughter, a crime. At the present time no cattle may be brought to the island except for slaughter within 24 hours.
A scale of points or a standard of perfection, now commonly applied to farm animals, first received serious consideration on Jersey. In 1833 the Royal Jersey Agricultural SOciety was organized and the folllowing year a scale of points for the improvement of the cattle was adopted. The standard bull must score 25 points and the cow 27. At the first show held on the island, in 1834, the judges said that the cattle were of poor shape, that the cows had bad udders, and that some of the females had short, bull necks, were heavy of shoulder, etc. From time to time the score card was revised, a practice of rigid selection was followed, and the cattle steadily improved in beauty and productive merit.
The exportation of cattle from the island has been associated with their improvement. Even prior to the eighteenth century, Jerseys had been exported to England, where they were first known as French or Alderney cattle. Under the name of Alderney, the first Jerseys probably found their way to this country.
About 1821 Philip Dauncey of ENgland, began the development of a Jersey breed. He improved his cattle greatly through systematic breeding, and may be considered the first great constructive breeder of Jerseys. He maintained a dairy of 50 cows, each of which netted him an animal profit of $100 from sales of butter.
Jerseys were introduced to America very early in the nineteenth century, but no definite importation from the island seems recorded prior to 1850, when Messrs. Taintor, Buck, Norton, and other gentlemen near Hartford, Connecticut, imported a bull and several cows. Since 1850 many thousands of Jerseys have been shipped from their native island to America.
In general apperance Jersey cattle are lean and muscular, of dairy type, and are valued chiefly for milk production. Some of the more striking characteristics are as follows: The color is a fawn of some shade, such as brown, lemon, orange, gray, mulberry, black, etc. About the muzzle, around the eyes, along the back over the spine, down the inner side of legs, and about the udder the color changes to a lighter tint, approximating white on the legs. A solid color is most common and meets with great favor among Jersey breeders, but white spots of varying size are not unusual.
The skin, of a rich-yellow tint, is mellow and elastic. The head of the Jersey is one of its most attractive features, being lean and fairly short, graceful of contour, with prominent, expressive eyes. The fawn color, beautiful head, and graceful form of the young Jersey heifer has caused many to refer to her as "deerlike".
Jersey breeders have done much to develop as symmetrical udder, a model of its kind. In size, Jerseys at maturity range from small to medium, with 850 to 900 pounds for cows and 1.300 to 1.400 for bulls meeting popular favor.
Jerseys mature early and usually possess superior vitality, many cows of the breed having lived 20 years or more. The cows are mild and gentle of disposition, but the bulls at maturity are apt to be nervous and irritable.
Jerseys produce a grade of milk rich in butterfat, testing about 5 per cent. Remarkable yields are recorded of these cows. The American Jersey Cattle Club, the official supervisor of the breed in this country, provides a "register of merit", the cows being tested for milk and butterfat by representatives of agricultural colleges or experiment stations. In 1923 there were 3.250 cows tested, more than 300 of which qualified for gold or silver medals. Fauvics Star holds the high milk record for the breed - 20.616 pounds in a year - while Darlings Jolly Lassie, Groffs Constance and Princess Emma of H.S.F. have produced 1.141, 1.130 and 1.11o pounds of butterfat, respectively, in a year - most remarkable records.
Much has been done by various organizations to promote this breed. Besides the American Jersey Cattle Club, in 1923 there were 299 State and county clubs, 123 bull associations, and 213 boys and girls Jersey calf clubs. The American Jersey Cattle Club promotes the purity of the breed, and since 1871 has published som 106 volumes of Herd Books, containing the registration of more than 900.000 animals.
Jerseys are widely bred over the world, with many herds in the United States and Great Britain. There are nearly 20.000 breeders in this country alone, with Ohio and Texas leading. The wide distribution of the Jersey is evidence of its popularity and adaptability to varying climatic conditions.
Canada has long been noted for its Jerseys, but the largest herd in the world is located in the extreme south of Texas, not far removed from the Mexican border. In the east, in New England Jerseys have been preeminent for nearly three-quarters of a century, while some of the most noted herds on this continent are to be found in Oregon.
An island in the English Channel, with an area of only 24 square miles and only about 10.000 acres of productive soil, inhabited by a thrifty race of French descent, noted for its mild climate, its gardens, its greenhouses, its granite quarries, and, above all, for its cattle! Such is the seagirt home of the "golden Guernsey" cow.
As an object lesson in what may be achieved through intelligentlu directed "community spirit", concentrated upon the production of something possessing outstanding quality, the creation of the Guernsey breed of cattle, now enjoying such deserved popularity in the United States, must be set down as one of the great achievements of modern husbandry.
Guernsey cattle are fawn-colored, marked with white, and are larger than their widely distributed sister breed of Jersey. They posses a peculiarly rich-yellow skin, this coloring in some subtle way extending to the lacteal products in such marked degree that the milk cream, and butter are in broad demand, at top prices, whereever produced. In fact, the Channel Islands farmers have always laid great stress upon the realtionship of the color of the skin to the color of butter. The first scale of points prepared by breed societies of the different islands, published about 100 years ago and revised in 1840, shows that practically the same scale was used by the entire group, and that all emphasized the yellow skin as indicating the production of yellow butter.
The first cattle from the Channel Islands, all then known as Alderneys, reached the United States more than 100 years ago. They were brought over either by travelers, who, visiting the islands, fell in love with the yellow milk and butter, or by skippers who had been similarly impressed.
The earliest importations into America of cattle whose records were completed, so that their descendants might eventually be registered, were made in 1830 and 1831. These cattle were maintained on Cow Island, in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, without mixture of other blood, and among their descendants was a cow that twice won a grand championship. The next importation of which there is record was in 1840, and this was followed by others in the fifties and sixties, but not until about 1880, did Guernseys come to America in any great numbers.
In 1881, S.C. Kent and a number of his Quaker neighbors in CHester County, Pennsylvania at public sale, bringing over more than 1.000 in the course of 10 years. In the nineties and for the decade following, only a few were imported each year, but about 1908 they began to come over in much larger numbers and in recent years importations have been numerous.
Nearly all of the earlier imported cattle went into the hands of wealthy men, who had country estates around the large cities in the East, principally Boston and Philadelphia. They began to come into the West in the early eighties, and at once became popular in the dairy sections.
Wisconsin now has about one-quarter of all the purebred Guernseys in the country. Pennsylvania, New York and Minnesota follow, while representatives of the breed are to be found in every state in the Union. Nearly 100.000 bulls and 175.000 females have been recorded.
The generally accepted statement as to the origin of the Guernsey is that it is a cross between the large red cattle of Normandy and the small yellow and red cattle of Brittany. It seems certain that up to about 100 years ago the cattle on all the Channel Islands were practically of one type, and were at that time being shipped in large numbers to England.
Records show that from 1822 to 1826, inclusive, 184 bulls and 10.575 cows were exported from the Channel Islands to England. Even the cattle that were exported to England from Normandy were also referred to as Alderneys when they reached Great Britain.
The development of the breed on the Island of Guernsey, until very recent times, was largely along show-yard lines. Records do not tell when the first public exhibitions were held, but it certainly was as far back as 1842. The earliest photographs of the breed were made about 1865, but paintings and engravings were made much earlier and indicate that the cattle were rough and angular.
At least two shows are held on Guernsey each year. The most coveted prize is the King`s Cup for the best cow and best bull, and the owner of a bull winning a King`s Cup, if he accepts it, must let the bull stand on the island for public service for the next year at a very nominal fee, and if the animal is sold from the island before the year is up the cup is forfeited.
The one thing which, perhaps more than any other, has aided in the improvement of the Guernsey breed is the rule that no bull could stand for service on the island and the progeny be recorded if used before 15 months of age, or if used before he had been approved for service and his dam be either a prize winner at the shows or be approved by the committee at the time the son was approved for service.
In recent years the additional requirement has been made that the bull must be out of a cow with an official record.
Following the establishment of yearly official testing in AMerica in 1901, the island Guernsey societies adopted rules along similar lines, and since that date several hundred yearly records have been completed on the island, revealing a production ranging up to 899-48 pounds of butterfat. Until recent years the island cows had practically nothing but pasture in summer and almost exclusively roots and hay in the winter, but now grain is fed, especially to cows making records.
The AMerican Guernsey Cattle Club was organized in 1877 by a few breeders living in the Eastern States. The scale of points in use by the club has been revised three or four times. In 1898 it offered some prizes for yearly butter records made on the owner`s farms and somewhat supervised by State experiment stations. The first year`s work brought out the record of 783.7 pounds of fat for the cow Lilly Ella, owned in Wisconsin, and her half-sister, Lilyita, made 710 pounds of fat. These records were so remarkable that they attracted general attention, and following the completion of that year`s work the club adopted rules for an Advanced Registry based on yearly semiofficial tests.
Of these annual records 17.651 had been approved up to May 1, 1924, and they show an average of 9.443.48 pounds of milk and 471.34 pounds of fat. The largest milk record for the breed is Murne Cowan`s production of 24.008 pounds of milk, with 1.098.18 pounds of fat, which is the second largest record of the breed. The largest fat record is Countess Prue`s, with 1.103.28 pounds.
In 1882 The Breeder`s Gazette offered a cup for the largest AMerican 30-day butter production, and this trophy was won by the Holstein-Friesian cow Mercedes, owned by T.B. Wales, then secretary of the Holstein-Friesian Association, which defeated that of the famous Jersey, Mary Anne of St. Lamberts, by a few pounds of butter.
There are in the province of France cattle closely resembling the Jersey of a century or less ago, and the opinion prevails that the ancestral stock on the island of Jersey came from animals in Brittany of this type.
There is a good reason to assume that the cattle on the Island of Guernsey are descended from those of Cotentin type in Normandy..
In his "Pioneers of New France", Francis Parkman says:
"In 1518 Baron de Léry made an abortive attempt at settlement on Sable Island, where the cattle left by him remained and multiplied."
This is the earliest recorded shipment of French cattle to the New World.
The foundations of cattle breeding on the mainland were not laid, however, until a century later. In 1620 a few cattle were landed at Quebec and in 1665 Messrs Tracey and de Courcelle brought France a small shipment described as black and brindle in color. These early selections were from Brittany, Normandy, and probably from the Island of Jersey, and their descendants to this day are not unlike the darker Jerseys in coloring.