History of Jersey Island Cattle.
[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
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
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
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
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