American Dairy Cattle. Their Past and Future. By E. Parmalee Prentice. NY 1942.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Of the sheep which Camden had described on the Island of Jersey, Philip Falle said
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
[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
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
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
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
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.
Some support for this notion is given by a traveller who visited Jersey in 1846
and who said that the only possible means of preventing a deterioration of the breed is by
an occasional renewal of the blood from Alderney, - supposing that Island to have seen the
source of the parent stock, - and a careful avoidance of too close intermixing of
Another dealer offers "thoroughbred Alderney and Guernsey cows" and
"thoroughbred Alderney bulls" for sale. Twenty years after the date of the
Guernsey ordinance, "thoroughbred Alderney Cows and Heifers" are stille on the
Altogether, a person who takes up today the yellowing, britle paper containing these
old advertisements, reading their charges and counter-charges, receives the impression
that he holds in his hands confessions of moral surrender by a community in the excitement
of pursuing what to them was sudden wealth. All dealers who advertised cattle "of the
genuine" or "of the true" breed, implied thereby that there were cattle on
the Islands that were neither genuine nor true, and this implication, - in a sense - was
correct , fo, as will be seen, the intermixture of kinds and varieties was such that none
could be regarded as more genuine or true than all the others.
There was no suggestion in the Guernsey ordinance that importation of cattle from
France had in any way been fraudulent, while permitted by Island law.
Jersey would have done better had it omitted this word from its ordinance, and such
may have been the general opinion at the time, for Quayle, in 1815, speaking of the fine
imposed on sailors in the crew of an offending vessel who failed to report any
unauthorized importation, said that this was a severe punishment "in a case
where there is no moral offence."
Neither the Jersey nor the Guernsey statute, it should be noticed, prohibited
importation of cattle from any other country than France, and , nevertheless, Mr. Gow -
who has already introduced himself to readers in such a memorable manner, by his Tale from
Smollett - now offers himself as a guide in the construction of statutes, for, speaking of
the Jersey statute, Mr. Gow asserts that:
...notwithstanding its wording, it really was a law to protect the Jersey breed of
A law, however, cannot be construed "notwidstanding its wording." The
statute stated in its preamble that its purpose was to save from ruin the commerce of the
Island with England by excluding French cattle from that commerce. To this purpose its
provisions were limited. Cattle of any breed, or no breed, could still enter either Jersey
or Guernsey from England, and, as will be seen from the following history, cattle of
different kinds did, in fact, enter the Islands.
Mr. John Thornton, Secretary of the English Jersey Cattle Society, referring in 1879
to the Jersey statutes of 1763, 1789, 1826, and 1864, said:
These Acts did not prohibit the importation of English cattle; both Shorthorns and
Ayrshires were introduced, yet their milk and butter were thought so thin and poor that
they were looked upon as inferior to the native cow, and eventually found their way to the
Of the assertion that these Shorthorns and Ayrshires which had been introduced into
Jersey "eventually found their way to the shambles," no doubt can be raised, for
this is the common fate of all aged bulls and cows that do not die by accident or by a
natural death. The fate, too, of many young Jersey bulls was similar, so far breeding was
concerned, since Mr. Quayle complains that Jersey bulls on the Island were seldom
preserved entire to their third year. Of the assertion, however, that these Shorthorns and
Ayrshires were inferior to Old Jersey cows and bulls, something will be said later. At
present it is sufficient to notice that both Shorthorn and Ayrshires - and other kinds of
cattle - were introduced into the Island of Jersey, mated with Jersey cattle, and that
their offspring were raised.
The third stage. There was, as has been stated, a long period of decline in the
practical value of cattle on the Islands from the latter part of the 18th century until
near the middle of the 19th century.
During the Napoleonic wars, men took little interest in the development of live
stock. Even after the wars has ended, conditions wee disturbed, times were hard, and it
was long before men were able to give their thoughts again to the improvement of cattle.
Accordingly, we read that the breed of good horses introduced about the year 1800 into the
Island of Guernsey by Russians was allowed by Guernsey farmers to deteriorate.
Perhaps Guernseymen treated their horses as Jerseymen treated theirs, for Mr. Inglis
says that he had "never in any country seen horses treated with less kindness
than in Jersey." Even "Jersey cattle degenerated during the first three decades
of the 19th century and the same was true of Guernsey cattle.
The third stage in the history of Channel Island cattle is, therefore, marked by a
return to small, light-colored animals more and more like cattle on the neighboring coast
of France, cattle from the continent being freely imported into Jersey before 1789 and
into Guernsey before 1819. For this reason Island cattle were no longer called "the
Dutch or Alderney breed," as Mr. John Bell named them in 1760, but were now termed by
Mr. John Baxter, by the Complete Grazier, and by Dr. R.W. Dickson,
"The Alderney or French breed." As de Dampierre says, "La race d`Alderney
n'est autre chose que la race normande naturalisée dans les petites iles anglaises qui
sont en vue des cötes de France" - Alderney cattle are merely Normandy cattle which
are naturalized in the Channel Islands - a fact which seems to have been understood
on the Island of Jersey, for the Committee which in or about the year 1834 drew up the
Scale of Points for judging Jersey cattle, included "M. Gibaut (Mainland) ".
This change was probably complete at the end of the first quarter of the 19th
century, although lightcolored cattle continued to be popular both on Jersey and Guernsey
during all came to be considered characteristic of both Channel Island breeds. On the
subject of breeding Jersey cattle for coat color, Mr. Robert Wallace says:
The loss in the milking qualities of the breed resulting from breeding for
fashionable colours was very striking. Silver-grey, a colour believed to have sprung
from a Swiss cross, was in great repute in England in the early seventies of the last
century, and animals with defective udders were kept for breeding on account of their
colour. The silvergreys soon lost caste, but not before some mischief had been done.
Popular opinion accredited them with producing very pale milk.
Very fancy colour
Alderney cows, just arrived - To be sold, 18 Alderney cows, several of them have
calves, very fancy colour, and fit for a Gentleman`s park. Many of them will calve in a
few days. Also a beautiful Bull at the same kind. To be seen at the Black Horse,
Marsh-Gate, near Richmond. This and 6 following days.
[London Times, April 21, 1807.]
Alderney Cows, just arrived. To be sold, 14 Alderney cows; several of them have
calves, very fancy colour, and fit for a Gentleman`s park, and many of them with calve in
a few days; also a beautiful Bull of the same kind. To be seen at Mr. Winter`s, the
Spolled Dog, Westbourne green, Paddington. This and the following days. T. Constant, the
Importer will attend each each day, who will keep a fresh supply at the summer at the
[London Times, May 19, 1807.]
If the cattle mentioned in the advertisement of May 19 are those mentioned in the
advertisement of April 21, it seems that four of the cows had been sold but that the bull
still remained on hand. Bulls appear in these advertisements from time to time, and in
larger numbers as the years pass, but always as a matter of minor importance to a trade
whose profits came from the sale of cows and heifers.
For the small passenger vessels of 125 years ago Alderney cows and milch goats as
To invalids and captains of ships carrying passengers - To be sold, two very fine milch
goats with or without their kids. Apply to W. Andrew, Worchester Street, St.
[London Times, January 16, 1849]
Alderney cows constantly on sale, at Parkfarm, Washway, Brixton, a lot of the tru
breed, just arrived direct from the island, some with calves by their side, and several
very near calving; they are very handsome, and merit immediale attention. Merchants and
Captains of ships supplied as usual.
[London Times, February 24,, 1817]
Goats for sale - To Captains of Ships and Emigrants. - To be sold, four pair of goats,
three in milk with kids by their side. Apply at Mr. Mansel`s newspaper office, Kingstreet,
Borough: If by later? post paid.
[London Times, October 22, 1839]
Dairying with toy cattle - the true breed
[Faximile afsluttet HN]
It is said that on the floor of an almost inaccessible valley in the Grand Canyon of
Colorado there is a herd of dwarf horses, some of which weigh no more than ninety pounds.
If the story is true, it would seem that hard conditions and short rations had given a
survivorship value to small animals in the Canyon. The loss of size in Island cattle as of
Island sheep and horses seems to have had a similar origin.
Some Island farmers had been able to procure sufficient food to maintain the
improved stock which Thomas Hale had described as like Dutch cattle in the feeding they
required and in the quantity and quality of the milk they gave. It is to these cattle that
George Garrard referred in 1800 when he described Alderneys as a breed of the Short-horned
class, like the Holstei, Dutch, Flemish and Norman. Other Island farmers were unable to
keep large cows, and the Channel Islands in consequence became known both for large cows
and heifers and for dwarf cattle.
In 1800 Dr. James Anderson said of Guernsey cattle that they were the smallest breed
of cows he had yet seen that were natives of Europe. Dwarf cattle were much sought
during the 19th century for ornaments on the lawns of country estates, as the Punch
cartoon shows, and as appears also from such advertisements as those offering a Kerry cow
41 inches high, or India Dwarf bullocks 33 inches in height "including the
hump," or a "half-bred Alderney, very small", or a halfbred
Alderney "small and compact park-like cow."
On September 16, 1850 Mr. Robert Coles, Honorary Secretary of the Bristol Zoological
Society, Bristol, advertised to Noblemen, Country-Gentlemen and amateurs, that he had
fancy cattle to dispose of - a small bull and a cow from the Grain Coast, Africa, three
years old and measuring about 2 feet 6 inches high. "They have nothing of the buffalo
about them, but are most like the small Guernsey breed."
On February 15, 1850, Mr. E.P. Fowler advertised an Alderney cow, due to calve on
the third of March, and "pure red; smallest of age ever seen.".
It surely is a curious spectacle of human perversity that at a time when there was
great demand for meat , and while the Colling Brothers, Cruickshank and Bates were
receiving large prices for heavy beef cattle, the Channel Islands permitted their cattle
to become dwarfs of no practical value whatever - unless it were to provide milk for
passengers on small sailing ships where goats were sometimes carried. Several writers of
the first part of the century spoke of the diminutive size of Alderney cattle and their
deer-like form. George Garrard said that in color Alderneys were distinct from all other
cattle in England, "some red and white, and some black and white, &c. in
common with other cattle," yet their colors are more brilliant and in greater variety
than the colors of any other neat stock in Britain. It was for this reason that these
little animals, so small as to be called toy cattle, were desired as ornaments upon the
lawns of great country estates in England. "As to the Alderneys," a writer in
the Agricultural Magazine said "they are a mere fancy breed, looking pretty in a
gentleman`spark.. very light in the carcase and small, when made fat come to no weight and
are by no means suitable stock for a farmer." What they were has been well
preserved for later days by the familiar pictures of Alderneys and Jerseys painted by Mr.
Edwin Douglas. It seems that this ornamental use of Channel Island cattle made a
market for them which British breeds have been glad to share. That there was some
competition among ornamental cattle appears from an advertisement of a York- Shorthorn
cross which it is said were "from their exxtreme beauty deserving the attention of
purchasers for the park or paddock."
One might imagine from the advertisements shown on a preceeding page that milch
goats and ALderney cows were at one time so small as to be almost equally easy to keep on
the small sailing vessels of those days as sources of milk supply for passengers during a
long voyage. The demand for beef, however, was so insistent in Europe during the first
half of the 19th century that small animals found a poor market. About this time,
therefore, beginning perhaps about 1850, or a little earlier, larger animals were again
introduced into Jersey and Guernsey, as they had been in the time described in Hale`s
Husbandry, and crossed with the native stock to increase the size of Island cattle.
Notwithstanding this fact, however, it was still possible as late as 1880, to find on the
Islands a few surviving examples of the diminutive deer-like cattle which had been so well
known when the century was young.
The cow and heifer trade of the 19th century. During the first part of the 19th
century, cattle exported from the Channel Islands were therefore of all sizes and shapes.
The trade, moreover, was becoming an important one to Guernsey farmers, for when the
Island of Guernsey in 1819 forbade importation of cattle from France, the principal
purpose of the law, as stated in its preamble, was "before all to preserve to our
countrymen that branch of industry which arises from the shipment of our cows to
Thirteen years later this trade was mentioned again in an anonymous book, entitled A
Brief Description of the Island of Jersey, published on the Island, where the statement is
made of Island cattle:
The Jersey cows are so generally sought after, and are held in such high estimation,
that little need be said in heir praise. By a singular misnomer, they are almost
universally called in England Alderney or Guernsey cows. The breed on the three islands is
very similar, but the average number annually exported from Jersey alone exceeds 1700
while those sent from the other islands scarcely amount to one-fifth of that number.
Perhaps it is well that the writer said nothing on his own responsibility of the
merits of Jersey cows in his time, for, when this book was published, the Old Jersey Cow,
which Colonel Le Couteur describes, was still representative of Jersey cattle. The
importance of the paragraph quoted above lies in the fact that the writer described the
Island trade as consisting in the exportation of cows, not as a general trade in
Island cattle such as it became many years later.
The cow and heifer trade of Guernsey continued, however, to be a small one, for, in
1834, Mr. Inglis said:
For the year, from the 11th October, 1832 to the same day in October, 1833 .. the
export of cows was only 185, of heifers 302, of calves 66, - an import (into England)
altogether insignificant compared with that of Jersey.
In 1837, the same old story of the exportation of Channel Island cows and heifers is
repeated by Edward Durell in his notes to Falle`s Account of Jersey, where, Mr. Durell
Since the farmers have found the advantage of their dairies, and of rearing heifers
for the English market, very little cattle is fattened for the butcher.
The annual Report of the Royal Jersey SOciety for 1846 says that good cows at
that time were worth from eight to twelve pounds, that heifers sold at four og five
pounds, and that "the export at that period was between 700 and 800 yearly,"
apparently referring solely to the export of cows and heifers, for no other animals are
David Low, in his book on The Domesticated Animals of the British Islands, published
in London in 1845-46, speaks of the Channel Island trade as all other writers of the time
spoke, for he refers only to the females. "The cows", he says, "are
imported into England in considerable numbers."
There is also a very interesting advertisement on a flyleaf of the book on The
Alderney and Guernsey Cow, written by Mr. Edward Parsons Fowler of St. Clement`s, Jersey,
and published in London in 1855. In this advertisement, Mr. Fowler states that he is an
"Exporter of ALderney, Guernsey and Jersey Cows and Heifers," forwarding cattle
throughout England to order at a trifling expense. Mr. Fowler could and did supply bulls
also, when bulls were desired, and if many inquiries had been made for bulls, Mr. Fowler
surely would regularly have offered them for sale. The fact that bulls were not often
mentioned, and that cows and heifers were made prominent, shows that the English demand
for Channel Island bulls in 1855 - though by that time considerable - was still
At late as 1862, this Island trade in cows and heifers shipped to England was still
in existence and conducted on a fairly large scale, for which, in his book on The Channel
Islands, Mr. Ansted gives interesting figures:
Although it can hardly be said that cows are bred in the Channel Islands for
exportation, there is still a considerable amount of profitable export business carried on
relating to them. In the year 1860, Jersey exported 1.138 cows and heifers, and
Guernsey about 500, the value of each cow of pure breed being from 14 to 18 pounds. In the
year 1861, the export from Jersey had increased to 1.819 beasts. A much larger number than
this total has, no doubt, been advertised for sale in England as Alderney cows alone, but
since the whole stock of cattle in that little island does not exceed 400 head, and
certainly not more than fifty heifers are sent away annually, it may be well to state that
not only are the real Channel Island cows almost all from the larger islands, but that the
balance is made up chiefly of small Breton cows, whose value in Brittany is little more
than 5 pounds each.
In 1881, Mr. John Thornton, Secretary of the English Jersey cattle Society, in
speaking of the use of Jersey cows, said:
The number of Alderney cows that existed in the South of England upwards of a
century ago, is evidence that there was at that time a trade with the Island for them.
We have, hen, a series of references covering a period of 149 years, from 1732 to
1881, in which ten writers -Shebbeare, Plees, Syvret, Berry, Inglis, Durell, the anonymous
author of the Brief Description, Low, Ansted and Thornton, besides the Fowler
advertisement, the recital of the preamble of the Guernsey Ordinance and the statement in
the Annual Report of the Royal Jersey Society - described the Channel Island trade in
cattle with England as consisting of the shipment of cows and heifers, while, although
bulls were shipped and sold, no writer mentioned the shipment of bulls. Ansted, it is
true, says that in 1860 Jersey exported 1.138 cows and heifers to England and that in 1861
"the export from Jersey had increased to 1.819 beasts,", but it would not be
safe to conclude that in the word "beasts" Ansted had included males, for he not
only gived this figure as comparable with the figure given for cows and heifers exported
in 1860, but he adds that even the figures for 1861 are small compared with the numbers of
"Alderney cows" advertised for sale in England. The export of bulls to England
was not negligible in 1860, but Ansted seems to have considered only the important cow and
A striking proof of the slight estimate placed upon Channel Island bulls, was given
during the rinderpest epidemic in Europe when England forbade the importation of all
cattle, but by Order in Council on May 26, 1866, without mentioning Channel Island
bulls, directed that cows from the channel Islands be excepted from this general
rule. The cow and heifer trade was too important to stop but there was no trade in
Channel Island bulls that required consideration.
Had there been in the Channel Islands a well-known and desirable breed of cattle,
the Island bulls would not have gone begging, but there was no such breed. The English
market wanted meat. Shorthorn bulls mated with Jersey or Guernsey cows produced offspring
that could be milked when fresh and when dry could be fattened and sold to the butcher,
and so Shorthorn or other large bulls were used in preference to small Alderney bulls.
It is interesting to notice that in 1847 the Royal Jersey Society presented to the
Prince Consort at Windsor Castle a two-year-old heifer and a yearling bull and
heifer. By this time, therefore, the idea of developing , by breeding and selection,
a Jersey breed of cattle had taken root on the Island. The reputation of Channel Island
cattle - Jerseys and Guernseys - was a later development.
What was the trade in Island bulls? There were, we may assume, as many male calves born
on the Island as there were heifer calves, and all these male animals had value, for they
could be prepared as steers to be used either for food or for draught. Island farmers
would be anxious to dispose of male animals, and it would be surprising if no males were
shipped. Accordingly, the Port Books show that, in 1742, one or two bulls went to England,
the difference in figures arising from the fact that the statements of the Port Books,
showing importation of cattle from Channel Island into English Ports, and the statements
of these books, showing exports from each of the Islands, fail to agree. Nine years later,
in 1751, thirteen bulls were shipped to England; in the following year, 1752, nine bulls;
in 1753, one bull; in 1754, one or two bulls, the difference in figures arising as before;
and in 1755, six bulls were shipped.
The Customs House Books show "cattle" shipped in 1739-40, and cows and
bulls in each of the three years 1741-42, 1742- 43 and 1746-47,- the number of bulls being
unspecified and all bulls reported as shipped from Guernsey, none from Jersey or ALderney
- a fact which probably tells more about the character of the records with which we deal
than about the trade which the records purport to describe.
None of the writers who described Channel Island trade can have been ignorant that
bulls were from time to time carried from the Islands to England. Certainly it was not a
matter which could be concealed from the Royal Society of Jersey; and, notwithstanding
this, the carriage of bulls was not mentioned in the Annual Report of the SOciety or by
any writer in connection with descriptions of the cow and heifer export business of Island
farmers. It is not doubted, that bulls were shipped from the Channel Islands to
England, and that, though these bulls were comparatively few, yet absolutely the number,
especially in the 19th century, was far from inconsiderable. It seems, however, that the
shipment of Channel Island bulls to England was not to be mentioned by writers who told of
the Channel Island trade, and the reader is left to speculate as to the reason for what
seems like a general agreement to keep silence on the subject.
The explanation of this striking fact is, apparently, that exportation of bulls was
not part of the business which brought to best profit to the farmers. Most of the bulls
expoted to England from the Channel Islands - like the bulls shipped from Normandy with
the cows and heifers sent to Paris dairies in the trade which M. Guenon described -
although not good beef animals, were in most cases fattened for the beef market, or may
have been used as steers for draught. The cows and heifers sold for fair prices, as
we know. The bulls probably went cheap. George Garrard, therefore, in his chapter on
Alderney cattle, gives the prices of fresh Alderney cows, dry cows, calves and oxen
for the yoke, but says nothing of bulls.
Alderney bulls were rarely used for breeding with ALderney cows, for, although in
1855 it was said that "the prejudice against the ALderney which has existed amongst
dairy farmers, whose object is only profit, by whatever legitimate means obtainable, is
also now fast wearing away," nevertheless, Alderneys were not a popular race of
cattle in England, and it is not likely that the idea of profit by legitimate means would
ever wear away.
There was a doctrine that
.... the worse bred the cow may be the more fully will the calf resemble the bull.
This is no new principle, Professor Tanner said, for it was advocated by Lord
Spencer i 1840 or earlier, and, on this ground, he argued:
For the economical production of beef the best stock will be obtained from good
useful dairy cows by the use of bulls of a thoroughly good pedigree.
This is the idea which lay at the bottom of the method which was followed in mating
Channel Island cattle in England. John Lawrence said that ALderney or Norman bulls had
been introduced into Yorkshire at some time during the 18th century for use with
Holderness cows. John Baxter said, in 1836, that Channel Island cows were
"generally crossed in this country, which accounts for the breed being but rarely met
with pure." George Culley said that he had seen some very usefull cattle bred
by a cross between an ALderney cow and a Shorthorn bull, and Edward Parsons Fowler
of St. Clement`s, Jersey "Exporter of ALderney, Guernsey and Jersey cows and
heifers", said in 1855, "the pre-eminent utility of the Alderney Cow as a cross
in breeding, with the Longhorn, is universally allowed where the dairy is the
David Low said that Alderneys "are mingled in blood with the native races,
especially the Devon and its varieties." Thomas Potts spoke of crossing Norman
or Alderney bulls with Holderness cows. Sir William St. Quintin of Scampston, near
Malton, crossed Shorthorns and Alderneys, as also did Sir John Heyburn of
Smeaton in East Lothian, Sir James Pennyman at Ormesby in Cleveland, and John
Haxton said in 1853 that, unless crossed with cattle of another breed, the ALderney is not
profitable. Dr. R. W. Dickson takes some pains to explain this practice adopting
statements made by a Mr. Wilkinson, a well-known breeder of the time. Dr. Dickson says
that "a breed, which is unprofitable on the whole, is sometimes kept for the sake of
a particular quality which it possesses in so high a degree, that it would scarcely be
worse if this quality were somewhat diminished, as is thought to be the case with the
Alderney cow; a breed which is kept by some of the nobility and gentry, entirely on
account of the richness of the cream; but yet the quantity of milk afforded by them is so
small, as to make them extremely unprofitable, even as milkers. It is well known, that the
produce of this breed, when crossed by a well bred Short-horned bull, are generally much
better milkers than Alderneys; are more beautiful in their appearnce, not being so
raw-boned; and frequently come to a very considerable weight.
This, as will be seen, was also the opinion of Colonel John Le Couteur of Belle Vue
on the Island of Jersey, one of the founders of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and
Horticultural SOciety, to whom the Jersey breed owes much of its value and reputation.
Certainly, the Alderney bulls that were used in England for breeding purposes seem to have
been employed largely for crossing upon other breeds. There was no Channel Island breed of
any importance in England. William Youatt, indeed, when he published his book on Cattle,
in 1834, classedd ALderneys among foreign cattle, as also did Samuel Copland in his
work on Agriculture, published in 1866.
The number of bulls shipped to England during the many years included in the Port
Books records of the 18th century is not large. England could use beef animals and draught
animals. Bulls could be adapted to these uses and this may well have been what was
done. In substance, therefore, the description of the Channel Island cow and heifer trade,
as given by Syvret, Shebbeare, Plees, Berry, Inglis, Durell, Low, Ansted and others, and
in the Annual Report of the Royal Jersey Society for 1846, is correct. A traveller who
visited the Island of Jersey about this time, found so few bull exported that he received
the impression that exportation of bulles was prohibited and that all bulls calves went to
the local market. The animals sent from the Islands to England at that time were
cows and heifers with males for beef or for draught, and comparatively few bulls used
chiefly for crossing with other races. As late as 1869, the Illustrated London News spoke
of the Island trade in cattle with England as a cow and heifer trade - a large trade by
that time, for, according to the News, there were 1.200 cows and heifers sent annually
from the Islands to England. Some bulls, also, were doubtless sent, for beef, daught or
crossing, but the News says nothing about them.
The "genuine" or "true" breed. Apparently, cattle on the Channel
Islands in the latter half on the 18th century and during most of the 19th century were of
all sorts and conditions.
So far as concerns size, the variation in Island cattle was extreme. We have, on the
one hand, the toy ALderneys and Jerseys represented in Mr. Edwin Douglas` pictures and
described by Dr. Hames Anderson, who said, in 1800, that "the smallest breed of cows
I have yet seen that are natives of Europe is that which is called the Guernsey." On
the other hand, we have "particular large Guernseys" offered for sale, and
"prime large ALderneys," and "a very fine large Alderney
cow"; also "a well-bred large Alderney cow," while the breeders
of these large cattle affected to regard as "spurious" the smalle cattle
which had been famous for a century - cattle which to many persons in Europe and America
were as characteristic of the Channel Islands as small shaggy ponies have been
characteristic of the Shetland Islands.
So far as our informations goes, these small cattle may have been descendants of
the small cattle mentioned by De Foe in 1732, and by Syvret - and Punch`s cartoon, is
evidence that they still existed in 1880.
To have the oldest inhabitants repudiated as not truly representative is hard -
nevertheless, besides the small cattle, the large cattle had an important place in the
cattle trade of the islands. In 1819 "a fine bull-sized Alderney cow" was
offered for sale at Brookson`s near the catle, Battersea, and in 1820 "thee
celebrated Alderney bull Hector" - of whom it was said that he was "allowed by
judges to be one of he most beautiful of his breed" because, among other things, of
his appitude to fatten - was on exhibition as a fat ox for a fortnight, at the end of
which time he was to be slaughtered.
The Norman cows sent to Paris dairies were fattened for beef, as has been
seen, and we may assume that this was the course followed with ALderney cows sent to
London dairies. The beef would not ordinarily be advertised, but it happens, rather oddly,
that there is in the paper a notice of an exhibition of "2 very handsome Alderney
cows lately from the butcher." Mr. Le Poidwin`s ox, "A Guernsey Ox of the
pure Breed," whose picture appears herafter facing p. 352, was awarded a prize at the
Christmas Show on the Island in 1844.
These large cattle, or some of them, may well have been descendants of the ALderney
cattle desscribed in Hale`s Husbandry, a book published in 1756, when many ALderneys
apparently bore a strong resemblance to Dutch cattle, both in shape and size, and,
if so, these large cattle represented stock that had inhabited the Islands almost as long
as the toy cattle.
In color the variations among Channel Island cattle seem to have been as wide as the
variations in size. Thomas Quayle said, in 1815, that on the Island of Jersey the colors
ran from cream-colored, or cream mixed with white, to red, or red-andwhite and from those
colors to black and black-and-white; moreover, he said, "some, like the north-west
Highlanders, are black with a dingy brown-red ridge on the back; and about the nostrils of
the same colour. They all have a good pile, generally are thin-skinned and fatten
The advertisements often speak of the colors of cattle offered for sale as
"very fancy", which is a favorite term, and sometimes as "beautiful"
or "handsome". Occasionally they are more specific, as when "handsome dark
browns" or "very rich colors, dark and lemon-pied" are
mentioned, or when "richness of color" is spoken of as attractive. Mr. E.
Parsons Fowler, however, in 1848 is more specific, for of 25 Alderney and Guernsey cows
and heifers described in November and December advertisements, there were 18 whose colors
were red, mulberry or brown, which in all but two cases were mixed with white, while four
of the animals were yellow and white, and three were gray and white.
On the Island of Guernsey, Mr. Quayle says, the colors are about the same, though on
the whole they appear darker, and not so many are cream colored. Possibly this latter
color was not one which often appealed to English buyers, for Mr. Michael Fowler, when
advertising a "singularly beautiful cream colored heifer" shipped to England in
1818, added that she was "the only one of the kind imported from the Island for many
Channel Island cattle, then, in the first half of the 19th century, were of all
sizes and of all colors. It may be for this reason that advertisements so often refer to
Island breeds, in the plural, as though they were many, offering animals as selected
"from the choicest breeds" or "the best breeds" or "the finest
breeds" on the Islands.
Mr. Ansted, however, when giving prices of Jersey and Guernsey cows shipped to
England, limited his figures to "The value of each cow of the pure breed"
in the year 1860. Dealers continued to offer cattle "of the genuine
breed," and Mr. Fowler himself sometimes uses this phrase or offers animals "of
the true breed," and sometimes we read an offer of "thoroughbred"
The one thing, then, upon which Mr. Ansted and all the advertisers agree, is that
the Islands during the 19th century contained many animals not of the pure or genuine
breed - whatever the genuine breed might be - a subject upon which there was great
difference of opinion, for, besides the diminutive cattle and the cattle that were
"large and handsome", there were mixtures of all kinds, since crossbreeding had
been active, and among the cattle of the Islands were the offspring of the Shorthorns and
Ayrshires which Mr. Thornton says had been introduced into the Islands. There were
also on the Islands descendants of the Brown Swiss, mentioned by Messrs. Wallace and
Watson, , while others came from the cattle imported from England after 1845 through which
Island cattle increased their size and the proportion of animals carrying dark colors -
browns, blacks or black-andwhite. These colors were much valued on Jersey and Guernsey
cattle not long ago, and still appear occasionally on Jerseys in AMerica - on at least one
notable occasion showing on a Guernsey calf, whose horrified owner saw to it that
the animal was quietly disposed of where it would never be seen again.
That there were other sources of intermixture on the Islands beyond those mentioned
is shown by the announcement of a dealer on February 24, 1819, that he has received his
first spring importation of ALderney cows and heifers "and a couple of high-bred
bulls, likewise a half-bred polled Alderney, beautifully spotted. "
In such a mixture as this, there was no such thing as a Channel Island breed. The
toy cattle and milch Alderneys sold to captains of the small sailing ships of those days
were as true and genuine as the "particular large Guernseys" or the
"bull-sized ALderney cow" - indeed, the half-bred polled Alderney was as true
and genuine as any of the others in a cow population where every individual was the result
of continuing mixture. The Channel Islands breeds were but at their very beginning at the
end of the 19th century, and the process of breed formation is in its early stages at the
The purpose of the Island ordinances, therefore - both of the Jersey ordinance of
1789 and the Guernsey ordinance of 1819 - was to exclude French cattle from competing with
Island cattle in the English trade. Thus far the ordinances went, and no farther. There
was no pure Island breed to be protected. The cattle of the islands were a mixed mass of
low-producing animals from which cattle were shipped to England for slaughter and for
crossing with native British stock.
Legends in the making. Investigation of the history of Channel Island cattle is made
difficult by the unreliable character of many publications dealing with the subject since
the early years of the 19th century. Statements have been made that Guernseys and Jerseys
were pure-bred for a thousand years, that foreign cattle have been excluded from Guernsey
"from time immemorial," and that during a long period Channel Island cattle have
been bred for high production of milk and butterfat.
In fact the first description of Channel Island cattle to be found in any book is
that given in Hale`s Compleat Body of Husbandry, published in 1756, and at this time
Island cattle were "very like Dutch cattle". Bakewell`s reat work had hardly
begun in the middle of the 18th century, and there is no authority for the assertion that
unknown breeders, among an ignorant, superstitious population, had anticipated Bakewell by
many years, and that they bred for dairy qualities while he later undertook only the
simpler work of developing meat animals.
Such assertions of antiquity as those mentioned cannot be justified, and,
nevertheless, they are mistakes which it is very difficult to avoid, for he truth can be
discovered only by long, painful and expensive investigation. Books published over a
hundred years ago, which to present times are source books of information, prove upon
examination to be misleading, and the story which they tell is so sanctified by time and
repetition that correction is difficult. We have here, however, and old tradition that is
founded upon error - in some cases upon falsehood - and this tradition has become one of
the great burdens upon AMerican agriculture.
The truth is that the idea of cattle improvement was a long time in traveling from
England to the remote and backward Islands in the Channel.
All these claims to antiquity of Channel Island breeds will, therefore, be
disregarded, and we will seek, so far as possible to learn the history of Channel Island
cattle from contemporary and disintered sources.
Before the latter half of the 19th century, however, there were not, and never had
been, any breeds of distinctively dairy cattle in the world.
In 1815, Mr. Thomas Quayle said of the breed of Channel Island cattle,
..no individual has attempted by the selection of cattle, and breeding from them,
to raise its standard, or to attain any particular object.
Francois de Neufchâteau said in 1804 that, in the countries of Europe where cattle
produced the most milk and butter-fat, the farmer was content if these products paid costs
and he had the fertilizing material as a net profit.
Misrepresnetation of the Jersey statute of 1789 began when Quayle said, in 1815,
that the statute intended not only to prevent French competition in the cow and heifer
trade with England, but also to guard the purity of Island genealogies and that, for this
purpose, it forbade importation into Jersey of any cow, heifer, calf or bull.
If, indeed, the statute forbade all importation of cattle, what can have been the
meaning of Quayle`s further statement that "the general purity of the breed is
guarded by the rooted opinion of the inhabitants rather better than by the sanction of
law"? If law forbade all importation of cattle from France and from every other
place, protection was complete. Apparently, however, Quayle knew that this was not the
fact. He knew that the statute did no more than to forbid importation from France, and he,
therefore, suggests that "a rooted opinion of the inhabitants," hostile to
importation from other countries, might, in some degree, do what he would like to have it
believed that the statute also did. Quayle, then was the first of the historians to give a
false account of this Jersey statute.
The Jersey breed, as it is known today, was built up about the middle of the 19th
century, by crosses made with outside breeds, while the Guernsey breed was built up still
later in the same way.
In 1819, four years after the publication of Quayle`s book, the idea of establishing
recognized breeds of cattle had penetrated to the Channel Islands. It is possible,
moreover, that the trade in Island cattle to America was beginning in a very small way
about this time. Guernsey also had become interested in the shipment of cows and
heifers to England, and in this trade met the full force of French competition as Jersey
had already met it. In that year, therefore, the Island of Guernsey took the same action
which Jersey had taken in 1789, prohibiting importation of French cattle into the Island
for the double purpose, the ordinance says, of protecting Guernsey cattle from foreign
...désirant surtout conserver aux habitants de la campagne cette branche
dìndustrie qui provient de lènvoi de nos Vaches en Angleterre....
that is, desiring above all to preserve for our countrymen that branch of industry which
arises from the shipment of our cows to England.
Both statutes, therefore accomplished the same result - to prevent introduction of
French cattle into the Island which had enacted the statute. Had the purpose been the
preservation of Guernsey cattle from foreign intermixture, as the Guernsey ordinance
professed, the statute would have forbidden importation of all cattle whatever. Nothing of
the sort was done. Importation of cattle from France was forbidden. All other importation
The Guernsey statute was amended from time to time and when, in 1830, John Jacob
wrote his book, Annals of Some of the British Norman Isles, he described the existing
statute of 1824 by saying:
.. were a free intercourse to take place with France, French cows would in great
numbers be brought into the island, and exported to England under the name of Guernsey
cows, when they were only French ones; by which means the present lucrative trade of
Guernsey cows would be soon abolished - the constituted authorities have, therefore, acted
most judiciously, in enacting the following law, which I shall here translate for the
benefit of the English reader.
Mr. Jacob then gives his version of the entire ordinance of February 17, 1824, of
which the enacting part, as he states it, is as follows:
Provisionally, and until the necessary steps are taken, to preclude all sorts of
French cows from being imported into this island, from France, it is hereby forbidden ..
to any person to import from France, or elsewhere, any heifer of what kind soever it may
This, however, is not correct translation of the ordinance. Jacob had followed
Quayle`s example and misquoted the Guernsey statute as Quayle misquoted the Jersey
statute. Correctly translated, the provision was:
It is forbidden... to bring from France or elsewhere, into this island, any French
A second statute passed the same day deals with the identification and disposition
of French cows which had already been imported into Guernsey and, in so doing, recites the
substance of the previous law as follows:
The Court, wishing to prevent wrong-doing in the shipment of Cows and Heifers
of this Island into England, and the possibility that there be substituted for them cows
coming from France, and having this day forbidden the Importation of Heifers from
The meaning and correct translation of the statute, therefore, is clear, and Jacob`s
mistranslation is clear. The rolling stone, however, being started - unlike the stone of
the proverb . gathered moss very quickly, for, in 1834, Henry D. Inglis mentioned
"The law forbidding the importation of any foreign breed." In 1861, the
Annual Report of the Royal Jersey Society stated that the ordinance of 1789 forbade
importation into Jersey of any cow, heifer, calf or bull. Jonathan Duncan, in 1841,
said that "every foreign breed is rigorously excluded" from the Island of
Guernsey, and, in 1882, the Royal Guernsey Society in the Introduction of Volume I
of the Herd Book said:
The laws of the island have from time immemorial been so stringent that the breed
does not by any chance risk the admixture of foreign blood.
By English law, time immemorial or, as it is sometimes called "time beyond
which the memory or man runneth not to the contrary," precedes the reign of King
Richard I, which began in 1189, and the Herd Book could hardly have meant to assert
that all importation of cattle had been forbidden since that early date. Exactly
what it did mean is not easy to discover, for, except temporary quarantine laws enacted to
protect Island cattle from epidemic disease, the first general restriction upon
importation of cattle into Jersey was the ordinance of 1789, and ino Guernsey was the
ordinance of 1819, both prohibiting importation of cattle from France.
These laws in Jersey and Guernsey were not intended to prevent the use of foreign
cattle in the improvement of the Island stock, for, as Professor Gamgee said in 1861.:
...importation from England is not prohibited and it is only the French cow that is
doomed to have its throat cut if landed on the island.
Jacob`s mistranslation of the statute of 1824 was published in 1830, and this may
easily have misled many persons who had no desire to misrepresent history. For the
statement published by the Royal Guernsey Society in the Introduction to the Herd Book, no
such apology can be made. It has been accepted by many persons who trusted to the official
statement and it is only recently that the character of this statement has been known. The
ordinances mentioned were, in fact, but the beginning of a hesitating policy of
restriction which has only very slowly been made more effective, the final statutes on the
Islands of Guernsey being passed in 1877, 1891 and 1892..
Exclusion of foreign cattle from Guernsey, a quarantine law, not a breeding measure.
The American Guernsey Cattle Club was organized in 1877 - the year when the Island of
Guernsey adopted the Ordinance of June 4, 1877, defining the French word
"étranger" - foreign - as used in Guernsey statutes relating to the impotation
of cattle, to exclude from the Island of Guernsey, all English cattle, and cattle from
such Channel Islands as were not subject to the Guernsey jurisdiction. It seems that this
law is not among the Slected Laws of the Island of Guernsey, which have been published and
can be found only in the manuscript copy of enrolled laws kept in the office of the Island
With this statute there were omitted from the Published Laws, many other Guernsey
statutes, which, it happens, are to American breeders of Guernsey cattle the very statutes
which are the most interesting and important of all the Guernsey laws. We have been told
that Guernsey cattle have been bred "pure" for at thousand years. The
Introduction to the first volume of the Herd Book, published on the Island in 1822?
..the laws of this Island have from time immemorial been so stringent that the breed
does not, by any chance, risk the admixture of foreign blood; and as a cow born in
Guernsey cannot be other than a Guernsey cow, a registry to distinguish the several herds
is therefore needless.
A thousand years is a long time; and if it be true that stringent laws have
protected the pure blood of Island cattle during so many centuries, we vant to see
these laws and are not at all satisfied to discover that the Published Laws of the Island
are a selection only and that among the omissions is the law for which we are looking.
What explanation can be offered for a refusal to permit buyers of Guernsey cattle to see
the law which, it is said, has for so many centuries made the blood of the Guernseys so
Of course, the true explanation is that there is not and never was such a law. All
who read Mr. Le Patourel`s very scholarly book on The Medieval Aministration of the
Channel Islands or Mr. Dupont`s equally scholarly and much more elaborate study of
Channel Islands History will see at once that such a law as has been described would
have been wholly impossible, foreign to the times and to the people. The very fact that in
1819 a statute was necessary to forbid importation from France is sufficient evidence that
there was no law in 1819 which excluded French cattle.
The first volume of the Recueil d`Ordonnances de la Cour Royale was published in
1852 - thirty-seven years after Quayle had given his misleading account of the Jersey
statute of 1789 and twenty-two years after Jacob had given a similar account of the
Guernsey statute of 1819. The pure-bred legend, therefore, had been well started by this
time. A profitable trade was building in 1852 on the foundation of a belief in the ancient
blood of Channel Island cattle, and the first great Alderney "boom" was then
just about beginning i America.
It surely would have been a very unfortunate time for publishers of Guernsey laws to
raise question as to the socalled purity of Guernsey blood; so no question was raised. The
law of 1819 was published, as was unavoidable, and with it were published the
complementary statutes including those of 1824 and 1842, but other laws relating to the
importation of cattle were omitted. The fact, therefore, that the "immemorial
laws" which protected the blood of Guernsey cattle were not to be found in the
Selected Laws, it seems to have been thought might perhaps cat no doubt upon the breed of
Guernsey cattle, so long as with the immemorail laws there were omitted many laws as to
whose existence there was no doubt.
The story is told in the Preface to the first volume of the Receueil d`Ordonnances,
where, without excuse or explannation among many laws which seem to the student of breed
history to be of minor importance - the Editor announces the fact that from this volume of
selected laws there were omitted from publication almost entirely - presque en entier -
the laws prohibiting importation of cattle. The Editor says:
Among the classes of Ordinances which we thought should be omitted almost wholly
from this book are:
1. Those which relate to the importation and exportation of cattle, grain and
provisions in general. These Ordinances are more numerous than those on any other subject
whatevet -several sometimes being passed in the course of a single year. Whenever food was
dear on the Island or when there was fear that it would be dear, exportations were
forbidden for the purpose of assuring to the farmers of the Island a remunerative price
for their products.
This statement may be true so far as concerns the importation and exportation of
grain and provisions. It may well be that Island authorities regulated the buying and sale
of grain and foods from and to other countries for the purpose of controlling the price of
these articles; but the laws excluding French cattle from the Island profess other
purposes. The law of 1819 expressly says that importation from France was forbidden:
... above all, in order to secure to our countrymen this branch of industry which
arises from the shipment of our cows to England...
The statute also mentions the need of protecting Island cattle from intermixture
with a foreign race - a consideration to which more serious attention would be paid if
Island cattle were not themselves of the French race now excluded and if imporation had
not been and was not permitted from England at all times of any kind of cattle whatever.
The statement of the Editor, therefore, which may be true as to the purpose with
which the Island forbade importation and exportation of grain and provisions cannot be
true as regards the purpose with which the Island forbade the importation of cattle.
Exportation of cattle, it seems, was never forbidden. Indeed, the rules regulating
commerce in cattle, and the rules controlling prices of food on the Island are so
different as to suggest that cattle were mentioned with grain and provisions only to avoid
making the omission of cattle laws conspicious.
It is impossible in the absence of a full knowledge of Guernsey statutes, to
determine their construction with any satisfactory degree of certainly, but we know that
there were very many laws forbidding all importations of cattle into Guernsey and that
most of these laws enacted in or after 1870, no fewer than 42 being enacted between 1870
and 1892. This is surely an astonishing out-burst of legislation which must have had a
cause - what was it?
The explanation is in the great cattle plagues that raged in England and on the
continent of Europe in the "60"s and "70"s of the last century.
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, int the six years ending with 1860 more than
a million cattle in the United Kingdom died from pleuropneumonia, while "from
1863 to 1866 the death rate was from 50 to 60 per cent, annually."
In 1865-1866 the losses of cattle from rinderpest in Great Britain, it is said,
amounted to over 233.000 head, valued at from twenty-five million to forty million
As to foot-and-mouth disease "it is scarcely possible to arrive at anything
like a correct estimate of the number of cattle affected during any particular out-break
in Great Britain. Perhaps it would not be an exaggeration to assert that 150.000 or
200.000 suffered from the disease in 1872, and that from 1839 to 1877 the money loss to
Great Britain was 13.000.000 pounds, though this is probably far below the actual fact.
The story of these great epidemics was told by George Gleming, a veterinary surgeon
of the Royal Rngineers in an address before the Society of Arts in 1876, of which a
portion is printed as an Appendix to this chapter.
In View of this great and continuing mortality among cattle there was enacted on
January 20, 1862 a quarantine law which forbade all importation of cattle into Guernsey
except such as were admitted under regulations providing for their slaughter. This statute
contained of course, the usual profession of a purpose to keep the cattle of the Island
free from intermixture with other races; but it was in fact a quarantine law, enacted to
protect the Island from cattle plague. It was therefore, renewed every year until October
26, 1866, when it was replaced by a more effective law which was to remain in force until
the Christmas term of the Cour Royale. On January 21, 1867, the new law which was
contemplated was passed, and thereafter renewed every year until 1891.
In the meanwhile, on the 4th of June 1877 - dangerous epidemics of cattle disease
having already continued in England for nearly forty years - the rule was established on
the Island of Guernsey that all cattle, except such as came from islands subject to the
jurisdiction of Guernsey, were to be regarded as foreign cattle - thus bringing British
cattle within the operation of all laws which forbade importation of foreign cattle.
On January 16, 1882, and on October 2, 1882, supplementary Acts
were passed; so that the four Acts of 1867, 1877 and of January and October, 1882 were the
principal laws which regulated the importation of cattle from the date of their enactment
On December 5, 1891, in view of the epidemic of pleuropneumonia then prevailing in
the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe, the "Ordonnance provisoire"
was enacted, prohibiting importation as before, but extending the prohibition to the
Islands of Serk, Herm and Jethou, which had not expressly been included in any previous
statutes except the early statutes forbidding importation of cattle from France.
Apparently, there had for many years been a side door open by which cattle could be
brought into Guernsey through one of these small Islands. That door was now closed. The
provisory ordinance was repealed and a new ordinance substituted on July 13, 1892.
In this rapid survey of Guernsey legislation, based on examination of the manuscript
laws in the Guernsey registry - an examination made as carefully as possible in the
circumstances of the time but which cannot be verified under present conditions - it
appears that not less than forty-two statutes were passed between 1870 and 1892 which
related to the importation of cattle into Guernsey. During the entire period, from 1862 to
1892, there was on the Island of Guernsey a welljustified but almost panic fear of the
invasion of cattle plague. The law prohibiting the imporation of cattle from England and
other countries was passed during the existence of these epidemics and was of the nature
of a quarantine law to protect the Island from disease. Its moving purpose had nothing to
do with keeping Guernsey cattle from intermixture.
It has been impossible to make as full an examination of the laws of Jersey as has
been made of the laws of the Island of Guernsey, but the most important laws on Jersey
have been those of August 8, 1789, and of March 8, 1826, both of these Acts
prohiting importation from France - and the Act of September 8, 1864, which, like
the Guernsey law of 1862, is a quarantine law, general in form, prohibiting importation of
Guernsey breeders, therefore, until 1862, mixed their breeds as they saw fit,
excluding first French cattle in 1819, and later "foreign" cattle from the
island. After 1862, they maintained strict quarantine, forbidding all importations,
and, in 1877, they adopted on the Island of Guernsey the policy of excluding cattle
from all other lands.
The notion of purity of blood in the sense of consanguinity - of always mating
"within the breed" - is chiefly and American notion which followed the
organization of registry associations in this country.
American breeding began, therefore, just as the great period of breeding which had
made British live stock famous was drawing to its end. Moreover, breeding work in AMerica
was begun, and is still carried on, under the limitations imposed by the notion of
"purity" of blood, and to type, from which British breeders in their great days
were almost free.
The foregoing history presents a remarkable instance of human vagaries. No
demonstration was needed to show that
..men may construe things after their fashion
Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.
but what we have here was, in the beginning, a question of the truth, not a difference in
construction. Moreover the entire problem has arisen since 1815. Channel Island history in
the 1500`s, 1600`s and 1700`s was simply and truthfully told, and then beginning
with Quayle in 1815 and the Guernsey ordinance of 1819, we have extraordinary claims, the
omission of two words -de France - in a sentence, so as to translate the ordinance as
though it prohibited importation of all heifers when, in fact, only importation of heifers
"de France" was forbidden, the misrepresentation of History, and assertion of
false claims of antiquity, culminating in the narration of an incident from one of
Smollett`s novels as an actual historic fact and the omission of quarantine statutes from
the Published Laws of the Island of Guernsey. What can have caused this sudden explosion?
An explanation can, perhaps, be found in the recent and rapid rise of the Jersey and
Guernsey breeds. Very simple communities were, by improvements in transportation and
communication, brought into close relations with the rapidly expanding affairs of the 19th
century. Large sums of money were paid to almost primitive people. It seemed that the door
to wealth had been opened, and the temptation had such influence on the Islands as boom
times know in other lands. Fictitious pedigrees were made and manufactured
history was published. Moreover, the favor which often attaches to something new added to
the rising interest in Island cattle. Nothing further, it seemed, was needed than to show
that a cow or bull or its ancestors came from Jersey or Guernsey and it became
valuable beyond all previous thought. Everything which has touched the Islands seemed to
be tinged with romantic interest. Even the Guernsey lily had an air of mystery for it
"is supposed to have come to the Island of Guernsey in an early day by the wreck of
some Japanese or Chinese junk," surely a long voyage for a junk!
The fortune of Island farmers was in the word "purebred", supported by the
idea that Island cattle had been kept separate from all other cattle for a thousand years.
To this idea of ancient separation they have clung. It has been asserted over and over
again in publications and speeches, until it is part of the Capital of Guernsey and Jersey
breeds - a proof of pure-bred value.
Many breeders, even at the present time, cherish the hope that this word pure-bred
can sstill bring wealth.
Rabelais gave a vivid description of pirates on the small Islands of Sark and Herm ,
who, nevertheless, made by no means as much mischief in the world as the misquotations of
Quayle and Jacob.
Surely, the stories which were told as to the origin of Island cattle could never
have passed as authentic history in any critical caompany - but apparently no question was
raised. High prices were paid because demanded. Everything that was told of Channel Island
history was believed. As John Dryden, in Absolom and Achitophel, said of other incredible
stories, the reports were
Not weighed or winnowed by the multitude
But swallowed in the mass, unchewed and crude.
Romance and Dairy Cattle. The Century Dictionary defines the word
"romance" as any fictitious story of heroic, marvelous or supernatural incidents
derived from history or legend.
How nearly the stories told of Guernsey history fall within this definition will be
recognized from the statement of Mr. Tupper that of the history of Guernsey "nothing
authentic or documentary, with perhaps two or three exceptions, can be found anterior to
the 11th century; and its meagre annals previous to that period are based chiefly on
conjecture, with scarcely a ray of tradition."
Since Mr. Tupper`s book was written a vast amount of research has been devoted to
Channel Island history, as will be seen by an examination of the sources and literature
which Mr. J.H. Patourel mentions in his book on the Medieval Aministration of the Channel
Islands, and Mr. Gustave Dupont mentions in his book on Le Cotentin et ses isles.
Notwithstanding all that has been done, however, little new information has been secured
regarding early Guernsey history. On the other hand there has been in the last
hundred and twenty years a large growth of rumors and stories without historical
justification, so that the first step toward a correct understanding of Guernsey history
and a sound knowledge of the history of Guernsey cattle must be made by discarding all
that is fabulous.
In speaking of the intellectual condition of Europe during the Middle Ages, Buckle
That there was, properly speaking, no history, was the smallest part of the
inconvenience; but, unhappily, men, not satisfied with the absence of truth, supplied its
place by the invention of falsehood.
To this can be added the comment which Mr. Buckle makes in another part of his work,
that in many cases the understanding is too weak to curb the imagination, as can easily be
proved "not only from the superstitions which in every country still prevail among
the vulgar, but also from the poetic reverence for antiquity . which still hampers the
independence, blinds the judgment and circumscribes the originality of the educated
Accounts of Channel Island cattle bear the mark of these influences. In 1841 Mr.
Jonathan Duncan said that the monks and canons of Moint Saint Michel in Normandy were
banished from the establishment by Richard the First, Duke of Normandy, on account of
their dissolute behavior, and that "these exiled monks established
themselves," on the island of Guernsey, "in the Vale, and founded a chapel and
house for their residence, which took the name of the Abbey of the Monks of Mount Saint
Michael of the Vale."
Mr. Tupper who wrote in 1854 does not speak so positively and in some details
differs from Mr. Duncan. Mr. Tupper says:
In the year 965, the Benedictine monks were put in possession of the monastery of
Mont St. Michel, in Normandy, by duke Richard I, who about the same time expelled its
previous tenants, the secular clergy, on account, it would seem, of their dissolute
conduct. The exiled clergy are stated to have established themselves in the Vale parish,
and to have built there a monastery or priory, which, in memory or their late residence,
they named St. Michael of the Vale.
This statement that they settled in Guernsey, however, Mr. Tupper doubts, for he
says that before the charter of Duke Robert, about the year 1030, the monks had no
possessions whatever in Guernsey, adding that "this fact goes far to disprove the
statement that the clergy exiled from Mont St. Michel settled in the Island, whose
earliest annals are in truth shrouded in much doubt and obscurity. "
M. Paul Gout, in his history of Mont-Saint-Michel, goes into the history of
the dispossessed clergy in some detail, giving his authority, and showing not only the
nature of their offences but telling us also what became of these men. They were entirely
given over, he says to revellings, hunting and other pleasures -"solis
comessationibus, venationibus ceterisque intenti erant voluptatibus" - anf for
this reason Duke Richard required that these men should submit themselves to monastic rule
or leave the place. All except two left, going to different places as each man decided for
himself. Two remained, Durand and Bernehere (Bernier), being kept. M. Gout says,
"lùn par amour du saint, làutre, Bernehere, par une infirmité de son corps
...jurant quìl ne sortirait que contraint par la violence," - that is Durand stayed
for love of the Saint, while Bernehere on account of illness, as he said, refused to leave
unless put out by force. Of the situation, created by Bernehere`s refusal to leave, it is
Tant dìmportunité ayant fait penser quìl avait caché là quelque chose quìl
méditait dènlever dans le silence de la nuit, on le fit emporter et deposer dans une
maison sur le côté du Mont..
or in English - that such insistance aroused the suspicion that he, Bernehere, had
hidden something which he planned to take away during the night, and for this reason he
was removed to a house on the side of the Mont. Duke Richard thereupon installed the monks
in St. Michel.
How the story arose that the dispossessed clergy went to Guernsey is unknown. M.
Dupont says that it has no historical support, and in view of the very careful and
thorough examination which he made of all available sources of information his statement
on the subject must be accepted as conclusive. Since M. Dupont wrote his book many
documents, records, special commissions, grants and administrative orders have been found,
but, so far as careful search shows, there has been no publication of any historical
source justifying the story that the dispossessed clergy migrated to Guernsey.
The next development of the story appeared in 1917 when Brother Ananias, professor
of agriculture in Les Vauxbelets College, Guernsey, wrote Mr. Charles L. Hill a letter,
part of which Mr. Hill copied in his book, The Guernsey Breed
Brother Ananias had heard the story of the monks; apparently he did not know its
apocryphal nature, and so he suggested that "in the absence of any documents to the
contrary " it seemed probable that the cattle on the island might have sescended from
animals which the monks had brought with them when they migrated to Guernsey. He cites no
authority for his theory, however, which he does not put forward as a statement of
fact, but merely as a subject for consideration. Mr. Hill published this letter with the
If there is any foundation of fact at all in this theory of the origin of the
Guernsey. I think it is as stated in his (Brother Ananias`s) letter. (p. 31)
The suggestion had already been disposed of by M. Dupont`s statement, that there is
no reason to believe that the dispossessed clergy went to Guernsey, - but notwidtstanding
this fact, the idea was a welcome seed which soon sprouted, growing from what was but a
disproved notion in 1917, to what was stated as historical fact in 1921, when Mr. Charles
The Norman chronicles tell us that about A.D. 960 Robert, Duke of Normandy,
historically known as Robert the Devil .. sent some Monks of St. Michel, in Brittany, to
found an abbey in Guernsey...
"Yàre a baggage" said the drunken Christopher Sly to the bar-maid.
"Look in the chronicles, we came in with Richard Conqueror."
Of course Sly didn`t know what "the chronicles" were any more than he knew
the Conqueror`s name, but he knew that they were associated in some way with great dignity
and that his reference to them was false.
Am not I Christopher Sly, Old Sly`s son, of Burton-heath; by birth a pedler, by
education a card-maker, by transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present profession a
But "the chronicles" sounded well to Christopher Sly,- and so they did to
Mr. Kitts, who had not examined history far enough to discover that Richard I, was Duke of
Normandy in 960 and that Robert the Devil, had not been born when, according to his
tale, the monks were dispossessed. Death, however, had no sting for this story, which
showed life and grew long after it should have been forgotten. So Mr. Kitts, who had
thrown in the mention of "chronicles" exactly as Sly had done, adds the further
theory of history which is partly his own notion and partly a suggestion from Brother
Ananias, that to cultivate the land effectively it must have been necessary that "the
monks" import cattle "for use both as draught beasts and to provide milk, butter
and cheese;" that there were two or three fairly distinct breeds in Brittany, and
that "there is more than one good reason for assuming that the breed selected was
that known as Froment de Leon, which gets its name from the town of St. Pol de Leon".
(p. 7) A few years later Mr. Kitts says, other monks came from Cherbourg bringing cattle,
which "it may safely be assumed was the large Norman brindle which is the common cow
of the rich butter district of Isigny," and he adds:
That these monks brought over some cattle from time to time from the Cherbourg
promontory is beyond dispute, as there are records existing of the conveyance in barges of
cattle from the small fishing village of Dielette to Guernsey and Alderney.
This however, is but adding secret to secret. Mr. Kitts rested his whole story of
the migration of the clergy - or monks - pon his mention of "the normand
Chronicles" without identifying the Chronicle and without giving a volume, or page
reference. The story, he now says, is placed "beyond dispute" by existing
records which are not described and which we know not where to find. Does the plain and
simple narrative of Truthful James depend upon confirmation by Old Bill Jones who would
gladly give all that is needed if he were alive?
The next development of the story comes when the American Guernsey Cattle Club,
referring to the supposed migration of exiled monks from Saint Michel, asserts that,
"These monks brought with them the Froment de Leon cattle which possessed many of the
characteristics of the present day Guernsey."
Mr. Alfred S. Campbell, relying upon the Guernsey Club, and repeating its
statements, says, referring to the unborn Robert, Duke of Normandy:-
The first monks to land were from Mont St. Michel, in Brittany. Robert, Duke of
Normandy, sent them to Guernsey about 960 A.D. at a time when piracy was so rampant on the
Channel as to annoy him seriously. They brought over the native cattle of Brittany, the
small red breed known as Froment de Leon .. A few years after their arrival, Norman monks
from Cherbourg, on the Cotentin promontory, followed them. They, too, brought cattle, but
of a different breed, still known to be French as Isigny; large brindled animals well
known for their characteristic of butter production.
Finally, as a crown to the whole story, and as unquestionable proof that this
history - although it has grown from nothing to its present dimensions before our eyes -
is in fact the very truth, comes the report of a visitor to Guernsey, that a few years
before the present war, there was exhibited, in the Greffe at Saint Peter-Port, a document
which "purported to be the "bill of lading" for the first shipment of
cattle from France to the Island and bore the date 960 A.D."! Can it be that this
"bill of lading" is what Mr. Kitts had in mind when he spoke of the
"records existing of the conveyance of cattle in barges from the small fishing
village of Dielette to Guernsey"?
Generally the farther we recede from a historical fact, the more difficult it
becomes to secure authoritative evidence. Guernsey history however, is an exception to
this rule for the story is rapidly growing and evidence suddenly appears where it never
before was known. The earliest recorded European document written on paper was a deed of
King Roger of Sicily of the year 1102. Paper making in Europe began i Spain in the middle
of the 12th century? The earliest European manuscript having Arabic numerals was written
in Spain in 976 The "bill of lading" for the Brittany cattle nevertheless
was dated 960! Can it be that this historic document was written on the earliest
sheet of European paper known, or did all bargres going to Guernsey from "the small
fishing village of Dielette" give parchment "bills of lading" written in
One would think that the story was complete at this time and that nothing more could
be added to it, but the most important evidence of all was made public in June 1941, when
the American Guernsey Cattle Club announced that "The Chronicles" actually
describe the cattle brought by the dissolute monks to Guernsey. The Club quotes in English
what we assume must be a translation from the Latin or French description of the cattle
with the simple introduction, - The Chronicles say:-
They (the cattle) were fawn and white in color with bright eyes and were quiet at
milkings. They produced a good flow of rich yellow milk from which excellent butter could
If the now famous "bill of lading" already mentioned, and the passage in
"the Norman Chronicles" have been discovered since Brother Ananias wrote his
letter, the person - or persons - who carried on this brilliant piece of research must
have known where he - or they - found the "bill of lading" and in what book of
Chronicles and on what page that passage describing the ancient cattle occurs. How can it
be that such important events take place under a bushel, so that the value of the
document, as authentic history, is lost, because no reader knows who found it, where or
when, or has any information about its history? And how can the passage in "the
Norman Chronicles" be permitted to become valueness just because the Guernsey Club
keeps secret the reference for the passage it cites, and because no man living and
unconnected with the American Guernsey Club can now locate the book or page in which it is
to be found!
There is no one book known as "The Norman Chronicles". There are a number
of books, most of them having Latin or French titles, which might be regarded as included
in the term Norman Chronicles, but these books can all easily be identified and when a
quotation is made from one of tehm the book from which the quotation is made should of
course be accurately described and the page on which the quoted sentence appears should be
given. If the book is written in a foreign language and the quotation is not made from the
original but from a translation, the fact should be stated.
In the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer gives advice well worth
heeding when he speaks of the manner in which quotations should be made:
Whoso shal telle a tale after a man,
He moot reherce as ny as evere he kan
Everich a word, if it be in his charge,
Al speke he never so rudeliche and large,
Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe,
Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe.
The Guernsey Club has put into quotation marks a sentence which we have not been
able to find i any book which could be called by the name which the Club gives, and for
this sentence no book or page reference is given. The sentence, moreover, is not of a
character which appears in any mediaeval book with which we are familiar, and it is quoted
in English although none of these hereafter named books is written in that language.
And where can be found support for the notion that the Norse government of Normandy
and Brittany was inspired by a policy to protect their Island subjects from pirates and to
establish on the Island a system of agricultural education? Apparently there are strange
ideas among writers of Guernsey promotional literature as to the state of Europe a
thousand years ago, and as to the character of the Norse conquerors who took possession of
large parts of France in the 10th and 11th centuries.
Scandinavia, the land from which the conquerors came, produced a numerous race of
powerful and restless people for whom it could not provide even the simple necessaries
which its population required. Frequently, therefore, parties of emigrants were sent out
for whom there was not room at home. Of the departure of these emigrants Dudon gives a
very striking account:
As the final act of their expulsion and departure they were accustomed to sacrifice
in honor of their god Tor. To him however nothing was given from flock or herd, nor of
wine or ale but sanctifying the offering they poured out human blood, thinking it the most
precious of all burnt offerings, so when the priest prophesied by divination, instead of a
yoke of oxen being sacrified they (i.e. human beings) one after another were fiercely
struck on the head, each person rreceiving one single blow, then his brains being taken
out, he was laid on the ground, and the inside of the heart, towards the left, that is the
artery, was examined.
The conqueror of a large part of what is now known as northwestern France was Raoul
- or Rollo - the first Duke of Normandy, not a man of whom it could be said that
piracy annoyed him seriously, for the left Norway in 876, desolated and plundered the Low
Countries and then entering the Seine river pillaged and sacked towns along his course
until he laid siege to Paris in 885. His conquests thereafter were continuous until the
French king, Charles the Simple, was compellled in 911 to ask for peace. The negotiations
are described by Dudon of Saint Quenting as follows:
At the time agreed upon both parties came to the place which had been appointed and
which is called Saint Clair. The army of Rollo encamped on one side of the Epta river
while the army of the king and of Robert (the Duke of France) camped on the other side.
Rollo at once sent the archbishop to the king of the French to say:
It is impossible for Rollo to make peace with you since the territory you offer him
knows not the plough, of flocks and herds it is entirely bare, and it is despoiled of all
human habitations. On such land no one can live except by rapine and plunder.
The territory which was unploughed and entirely without flocks and herds, was none
ofther than Normandy, which Guernsey breed literature of the last twenty-five or thirty
years asserts was, in 1060, the source of the Isigny breed.
There is no suggestion in the pleasant sentences which the Guernsey Club says that
it quotes from "the Norman Chronicles" of such conditions as Norse desolation
and plunder produced throughout northern France.
We have read the Norman history in the books mentioned in the foot-note
as also the authorities which M. Dupont lists. There are in these books very few passages
dealing with cattle and fewer still which refer to the Island of Guernsey. Such of the
text as deals at all with either of these subjects is indicated in the note by page
references. Nothing whatever resembling the sentences which the Guernsey Club prints has
been found in the note by page references. Nothing whatever resembling the sentences which
the Guernsey Club prints has been found. These sentences do not bear the character of the
writings of those old times and they have all the marks of modern promotional literature.
In the meanwhile, it is clear that neither the Froment de Leon or the Isigny breed
of cattle could have existed in the 10th and 11th centuries.
The story, then, of the secular clergy and of the cattle, which it was said that
they brought to Guernsey a thousand years ago, falls to its own weight because it had no
historical foundation to support it. How Robert the Devil, came to be mentioned in
connection with events which occurred before he was born; how Norse conquerors became so
softened that they were seriously annoyed by piracy; how a "bill of lading" that
was not given to monks departing from "the small fishing village of dielette" -
because the monks spoken of in the story did not depart from that, or any other village,
and took no cattle to Guernsey, - could turn up in the Greffe at Saint Peter-Port after
lying undiscovered for nearly a thousand years; and where "the Chronicles" are
which contain the peaceful picture of bright-eyed cows that were quiet milkings - all
these things, like the name of Billy Patterson`s famous assailant, - are unknown and
likely so to remain.
The herd-test and butter-fat test have never very much interested Island farmers.
Their concern has been type, appearance, and price. The yellow-and-white cow has
developed, mostly since the year 1900, for the purpose of sale, and she has sold. She has,
indeed, been a gold mine for Guernseymen and every effort has been made to lend interest
to island cattle by stories of Norman Chronicles, of famous Norman dukes, of Ten Centuries
of Breeding, and of patient island farmers whose single interest was the improvement of
dairy qualities in island cows. It would, of course, bring commercial advantage if these
yellow-and-white animals could be invested with mystery, -but it can not be done, for
their history is too well known.
The fact is that many Guernsey cattle came from, and still resemble, the French
cattle in near-by provinces of France. As an illustration of the identity of the two
breeds - the Guernsey cattle and the French cattle, - Mr. Charles Kittls says that-
... just prior to the war, (of 1914-1918) two heifers sent from Guernsey were
exhibited at a show in St. Pol and were awarded prizes without the judges being aware that
they were imported cattle.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT By Ripley
. Cattle of the
Island of Guernsey
have an unbroken
pedigree going back
to the Year 960 A.D.
- until this month
when moved to England
From cartoon published in many papers July 30, 1940. Reprinted by special permission of
King Features Syndicate and BelieveIt-or-Not Ripley.
Sorry Mr. Ripley, but we can not believe it!
The Royal Guernsey Agricultural and Horticultural Society on the Island of Guernsey
opened pedigree books for selected Guernsey cattle in 1881. Cattle whose ancestors, for
one or more generations, are entered in these books are known as Pedigree Stock - P.S. All
other Guernsey cattle are called Foundation Stock, -F.S. No pedigree can go back to a date
earlier than 1881, and those having a complete pedigree for many years since 1881 are
It seems, therefore, that any development of dairy cattle which may have taken
place on Guernsey has not been different from the development of dairy cattle which has
taken place on the continent, although here is no claim that the French cattle have been
"isolated" from other cattle for ten centuries or for any period whatever before
institution of the Norman Herd Book.
If therefore, the story of Ten Centuries of Breeding is to be repeated, and insisted
upon the "greet hevyng an shovyng for to aspye hough this mater kam
aboute" will, probably, increase until evidence in its support is produced, or
the story abandoned.
That cattle were carried to be the Islands is unimportant, since a cattle trade had
doubtless existed for centuries between mainland and Islands, and so long as this trade
continued there was, of course, a constant mingling of Continental and Island cattle.
If the Royal Society wished to prove by Mr. Kitts`pamphlet that the cattle of
Guernsey had long been segregated from other cattle, it should have been their purpose to
show - not that this trade had an ancient beginning, but that it had an ancient ending.
The relevant question was not when the trade arose, but when it stopped.
Being started, however, the story of the Dielette barges grew, and the rise of the
Guernsey breed during the long period not covered by records is taken for granted by the
Royal Guernsey Cattle Society in one brief sentence of an advertisement:
The development of the "Guernsey" through the centuries, and since
the time of the monks has naturally been by a primitive form of selection,
to which the American Guernsey Cattle Club in another advertisement added the further
detail that during the long development of the breed:
All cattle which did not produce the quantity or quality of milk desired were
butchered. As the result the breed gradually improved.
These statements are wholly imaginative, like the account of Tabitha Bramble`s cow.
They are inconsistent with known conditions on the Islands, and must be entirely
disregarded as history.
Of Jersey cattle, no such elaborate account has developed. Mr. Gow, it is true,
says that the "U.S. Consul at Liverpool, England, reported in 1885 that the
Jersey breed had been pure-bred for five hundred years," - a statement which is
absurd on its face, for which Mr. Gow himself assumes no responsibility, and upon which
the United States Department of Agriculture does not comment.
Such publications as these need little attention. It is well known, as Hamlet
informed Horatio, that "every man hath business and desire, such as it is," -
for his own profit of course; - and we know that it is impossible to learn the facts of
history from advertisements of associations which have repeated fiction as fact, and have
The poet, William Cowper, attributes to the spirit of western civilization the
Disinterested good, is not our trade
We travel far, `tis true, but not for nought,
and Samuel Johnson says that for the false statements of commerce "the motive is so
apparent that they are seldom negligenty or implicitly received; suspicion is always
watchful over the practices of interest; and whatever the hope of gain ..can prompt one
man to assert, another is by reasons equally cogent incited to refute."
Possibly the men of a couple of hundred years ago were less trustful than men of the
present day, or possibly Samuel Johnson did not know how great the power of
suggestion is, nor did he understand that constant repetition is sufficient, with many
minds, to produce conviction. The full effect of advertisement is one of the discoveries
of the last hundred years, and it is upon this effect of advertisement - of constant
repetition -that the legend of the antiquity of Channel Island breeds has been built.
Rise of the Jersey breed. During the eighteenth century and during the first third of
the 19th century, Jersey farmers paid very little attention to the improvement of Island
cattle. Jersey cows and heifers being comparatively cheap, - although selling for prices
which were better than Island farmers had ever before known - had a ready market in
England, and Jersey cattlemen were content. In 1815 Mr. Quayle said:
So long as the Jersey cow continues to command the present high price in England,
and notwithstanding her tender frame and thinness of hair, to be in the same request for
gentlemen`s dairires, the islanders will continue to act wisely in cherishing their own
breed, in order to supply that market, a the same time that the draft ox is found at home
extremely useful. Should the market in England become gluttet, in consequence of the
breed`s being perpetuated or improved in any home district, og by becoming less
fashionable, there is great probability, from the exuberant fertility of the pastures in
the island, and its favorable climate, that the shorthorned race of cattle, which has
recently attained such high perfection in the Vale of Tyne, would, if transplanted hither,
be found well suited to the spot..but hitherto no persevering, systematical experimenter
has attempted, by a careful selection of individuals, and attention to their crosses, to
improve this breed. From the narrow limits of each dairy farm, and shall quantity of
pasture in the occupation of any one person, it is not likely that such an attempt will
speedily be made. When a cow is famed as a good milker, her male progeny is preserved; but
this is for a short period, and it is not known that any other measure whatever has been
persevered in, to keep up the breed at its present standard.
To this Mr. Quayle adds that bulls on the Island oof Jersey were seldom preserved
entire to their third year.
By this erroneous practice, which is but too general in other countries, it becomes
impossible to ascertain the merit of any individual, and consequently to preserve his
progeny; were the treatment of horses similar, how speedily would they degenerate.
It was about 1833, according to Colonel Le Couteur, that the first effort was made
to improve the form and quality of the Jersey cow, and of this work he gave an
interesting account at the request of the Royal Agricultural Society of England in an
article published in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1845, and
reprinted i 1850 in the Transactions of the New York State Agricultural Society.
Of the ancient race of Jersey cattle, as Colonel Le Couteur calls the Island cattle
of Jersey as they existed from 1800 to 1830,-
...it was stated, perhaps with truth, that it had no tendency to fatten; indeed,
some cows of the old breed were so ungainly, high-boned and ragged in form, Meg
Merrilies of cows, that no attempt to fatten them might succeed - the great
quantities of milk and cream which they produced probably absorbing all their fattening
properties. Yet careful attention to crossing has greatly remedied this defect. By
having studied the habits of a good cow with a little more tendency to fatten than others,
and crossing her with a fleshy, wellconditioned bull, of a race that was also known to
produce quality and quantity of butter - the next generation has proved of a rounder form,
with a tendency to make fat, without having lost the butyraceous nature. (p.322).
Of what seemed to Colonel Le Couteur "great quantities of milk and cream,"
something will be said later. His chief concern, which really troubled him, was that
the old race had no tendency to fatten and so, to show what the ancient race of Jersey
was, Colonel Le Couteur presented pictures of The Old Jersey Cow, and Beauty, - The
Improved Jersey Cow, of which copies appear facing the following page. In publishing the
first of these pictures, Colonel Le Couteur had no intention to depreciate the Improved
Jerseys of his time and he was anxious to see to it that these improved cows should not be
condemned for defects which no longer existed. What Jerseys had been before 1830 was only
too well known in England, since cows and heifers had, for a hundred years , been imported
and used in English dairies. Dairymen in England had found that they were worth what they
cost when fresh, or about to freshen, since, like the Norman cows sent from the Cotentin
to Paris dairies, they could be sold to the butcher for what they would bring when they
ceased to give milk.
With this condition Colonel Le Couteur was not satisfied. A great change for the
better, he insisted, had taken place as shown by his picture of The Improved Jersey Cow -
being apparently a cross between a native Jersey and an imported Shorthorn.
There are Jersey breeders of the present day who refuse to believe that these
pictures accord with the facts of Jersey history. Breeders of a hundred years ago took a
different view. To them, Colonel Le Couteur was one of the foremost promoters of Jersey
interests and, therefore, on February 27, 1850, members of the Royal Jersey Society
presneted him with a telescope in recognition of his services. "Few of the Society`s
officers," the Secretary says, "have so well merited such a testimonial of
Colonel Le Couteur was not willing, however, taht the work of improvement should
stop where it then stood. Jersey cattle can be made still better, he says, but -
The evil was, and still exists, that most Jersey farmers, like many others, never
thought of crossing with a view to improvement, conscious of possessing a breed excellent
for the production of rich milk and cream... the Jersey farmer sought no further. He was
content to possess an ugly, ill-formed animal, with flat sides, wide between the ribs and
hips, cathammed, narrow and high hips, with a hollow back.
Of course, in the days when it was considered "undeniably bad farming,
therefore bad economy, to breed and keep cattle which are useful only for their milking or
working properties," it was not profitable to own such an animal as the Old Jersey
Cow. The amount received from the sale of milk was not enough eighty years ago, by itself,
to make a dairy profitable, so that, unless the cow at the end of her
lactation brought a good price from the butcher, the net result was a loss. Englishmen
demanded dairy cattle that made good feeders when not milking. This demand, Mr. Charles
Vancouver said, the Channel Island cattle did not meet, for, if they are not crossed with
a larger Englsih breed, their weight "will seldom exceed six score per quarter"
and "however fat and well finished for slaughter" their meat is "certainly
inferior to the quality of English beef in general." Colonel Le Couteur proposed,
therefore, to improve the meat-producing qualities of Jersey cattle by mating them with
better beef cattle.
Colonel Le Couteur`s view of the necessity of "crossing" was founded upon
his observation of these Island cattle in England where Alderneys had made no headway when
mated together but where good results had often followed when they had been "mingled
in blood with native races" or mated with Shorthorns, Devons og Ayrshires. In France
there had been no improvement when Breton cattle had been mated with Bretons but great
progress had followed a Shorthorn cross. As Youatt says of 18th century breeding,
improvement had "been attempted by selecting females from the native stock of the
country and crossing them with males of alien breed." Improvement of the Island breed
should, therefore, Colonel Le Couteur argued, be sought by following on the Island the
method of breeding which had been found successful in England. "Crossing was then
understood to mean," Lord Ernle says, "the mixture of two alien breeds, one of
which was relatively inferior." In this case, the Jerseys were the relatively
inferior breed which it was sought to improve, and Colonel Le Couteur proposed to cross
them with a breed which, from Jersey cattle, would produce stock salable in England.
In modern language, no dairyman would speak of "crossing" a Jersey with a
Jersey and that was not what Colonel Le Couteur called crossing in his article. He used
the word as it is used by breeders of the present day, quoting Quayle, for example, to the
effect "that the Ayrshire was a cross between the shorthorned breed and the
Alderney." In another connection, he said, "It is not doubted that crosses
from the Jersey breed have taken place," for excellent Jerseys have been sent to
England and Scotland and "if pains were taken, the race and its consequents might be
distinctly traced, which might lead to important results in breeding." He referred
also to an article on The ANgus Breed in which a picture of a beautiful heifer was shown,
"said to be out of a very small cow, with a remote dash of Guernsey blood in
Colonel Le Couteur, then, knew what "crossing" was, and he wanted to
improve the Jersey race by crossing with a bull "of another race" that had
desirable meat conformation and, besides this, had milk production in his pedigree. His
words are that he advised improving the offspring of a good Jersey cow.
.. by crossing her with a fleshy, well-conditioned bull, of a race that was also
known to produce quality and quantity of butter ... (322),
or, as he stated the same question elsewhere:
The only question in the selection of a bull.. was, Is the breed a good one?
meaning, solely, had its progenitors been renowned for their milking and creaming
qualities? (p. 321).
The Jerseyman who desired to improve the Jersey race must, then, cross with a
fleshy, well-conditioned bull "also" known to be of a productive breed, and, to
decide whether this breed was in truth productive, the breeder should consider solely the
productive qualities of the bull`s progenitors. Jerseymen were slow to do this but,
nevertheless, in the end it was done.
The Annual Report of the Royal Jersey Society for 1846, which was mainly of a
retrospective character, reciting the progress that had been made, contains a quotation
from the report of the judges at the Cattle Show held on March 31, 1834, when the Judges
Your Committee may be warranted in expressing an opinion, that, by judicious
crossing, a material and speedy improvement in the race of Jersey Cows may be expected;
and ... this improvement is not only attainable ..but that, by crossing the breed,
perfection is most likely to be attained, if proper pains be taken in the selection.
It was not working within the breed that the Committee had in mind. They advocated
"crossing the breed" and the rise begang when the crossing was made. This was
the point which Colonel Le Couteur had emphasized. "Careful attention to
crossing," he said, remedied the defects of the ancient race of Jerseys, and of the
improved breed he presents the picture of which a copy faces page 342.
The improvement of the Jersey, of which Colonel Le Couteur speaks, began, therefore,
after the year 1833 and before 1844, since, according to his account, it was in progress
in 1844,- the standard which Jersey breeders had in mind being a double standard of meat
and milk. "The grand desideratum," Colonel Le Couteur said, "is to discover
a breed that will be useful to the grazier, the dairyman and the small farmer."
This standard is shown in the picture of Beauty, whose milk record at the age of
four years and in the flush season in May, soon after calving, amounted to 38 pounds a day
of milk testing 4.4%. Beauty`s appearance indicates that she was better for beef than for
the dairy. This, of course, was before the days when there were a great market for milk.
Meat was always the first consideration. It seems that COlonel Le Couteur`s example was
followed by other breeders, for Alderney and Guernsey cows and heifers "of the
improved breed" or "breeds" were advertised for sale in England.
The first score-card or scale of points for judging Jersey cattle, when exhibited in
competition at Cattle Shows, was adopted in 1834, perfection in bulls scoring 25 points
and in females 27. Later, other points were added. What prize Jersey cows, selected
by the method of this score-card, looked like in 1869, is shown facing the preceding page.
We know that SHorthorns and Ayrshires had been introduced from England into
the Island of Jersey, and the red and white, and brown and white colors - which appear so
often on the cows and heifers which Mr. E. Parsons Fowler offered for sale show that
Ayrshire breeding had great effect on Island cattle. The Enclyclopaedia Britannica,
speaking of Jerseys in 1875, said that "the race as a whole bears a striking
resemblance to the Ayrshires, " and Moll and Gayot in 1860 said that "it would
often be difficult to distinguish between some Ayrshires and some Alderneys." The two
races plainly have a large common inheritance, the Ayrshires owing something to an
interbreeding with ALderneys, and the Alderneys owing much to Ayrshires which had been
imported into the Islands. The Brown Swiss seem to have influenced Jersey cattle also, the
inheritance coming either from England or possibly from Normandy. Of Shorthorn
influence, when mated with other cattle, Mr. James Macdonald says:
Shorthorns have been crossed freely with all the local races and sorts of cattle,
and have everywhere and upon every sort effected marked improvement. In all that adds
value to cattle, improvement has followed in the wake of the Shorthorn..
Beauty, then, may well be the product of a Shorthorn cross. Certainly she did not
enherit her shape from the Old Jersey Cow without the influence of some outside blood.
A dairy cow was, therefore, in the days before the development of what are now known
as dairy breeds, an animal whose meat paid her costs and whose milk added a profit. Judged
in this was, Beauty was certainly an improvement on the cattle of previous times and she
may fairly have represented the dairy ability of the best Jersey cows of her day, for
Colonel Le Couteur says that he "owned four cows that produced above 51 pounds weight
of yellow butter per week in the month of May and part of June." Chaanging butter to
equivalent butter-fat, these cows produced an average of 10 1/5 pounds of fat a week
during five weeks or so in May or June, - very close to Beauty`s figures. If this was all
that the most productive cows of the improved breed could do, we may well suspect that the
"great quantities of milk and cream" which colonel Le Couteur said were produced
by the Old Jersey Cow would amount to little when measured and recorded.
This, then, was about the beginning of the Jersey as a dairy cow. It was not until
1844 that the first reference is found to Jersey cattle exhibited as a separate breed.
"It can scarcely be said that the Jersey breed, or rather Channel Islands cattle,
except on two or three occasions, had formed a feature at any of our (British)
agricultural societies previous to 1871, when the Royal divided the Jerseys from the
Guernseys, and the Bath and West of England followed suit a year later. " The
American Jersey Herd Book organization was made in March, 1868, but its first publication
did not appear until 1871. In 1868 members of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and
Horticultural Society divided in opinion as to the desirability of a Jersey Herd Book,
with the result that the Society was unwilling to establish such a book. There were,
however, "supporters", as they were called, of a herd book program and
thesesupporters" elected a Committee to maintain an unofficial, or private Herd Book,
- officers of the Society who might desire to assist the Committee being authorized to do
so. This state of affairs continued until 1882 when the Society decided thereafter to
asussme responsibility for the Jersey Herd Book. "The first public intimation of a
desire on the part of English breeders of Jerseys to possess a national Herd-Book of the
breed occurred on the occasion of Mr. Simpson`s sale at Wray Park, Reigate, in the spring
of 1878, when the late Lord Chesham, speaking from the chair at the luncheon, proposed
that breeders should unite to establish one. This suggestion was further considered
at the Royal Agricultural Society`s show at Bristol in the same year, and at a meeting
held on the showground the preliminaries were arranged. Mr. Thornton was invited to act as
honorary treasurer and secretary, and consented to accept those offices in the interest of
a committee of Jersey breeders, fomed to bring out the Herd-book by private enterprise.
The first volume was issued in March, 1880 .. In July, 1883, an incorporated Society named
the English Jersey Cattle Society was established .." In 1882, Jersey cattle became
popular in America so that, for a short time, boom prices prevailed and as much as $5.000
was paid for a cow, while prices between $500 and $1.500 for cows and heifers were fairly
Colonel Le Couteur`s experience with Jersey cattle is very much like experience
which, in the middle of the 19th century, a French breeder, M.J. Rieffel, had with Breton
cattle, - a race much like the Jerseys. M. Rieffel`s account of his work was given in a
French agricultural paper in 1858 and is reported by Moll and Gayot in their book, La
connaissance du boeuf, published in 1860.
The Bretons are an excellent breed, M. Rieffel said, but they are bound to disappear
unless they can be improved so as to produce more meat, and he added:
It would without any doubt be simplest and most profitable to keep a dairy whose
milk alone would pay all costs. There would then be no need to worry about the
conformation of the animals or about the sale of veal calves or about new methods. It is a
dream whose delights I have often heard described in a sort of fairy-land.
This is not, however, the world we live in, for with us every animal states its
account when it goes to the butcher, where all cattle end, and where the quantity of meat
produced takes on increased importance every day. Considering, therefore, what future
requirements will be, M. Rieffel said, the Breton race must be improved if it is to
survive, and this can be done either by working within the breed, by careful selection of
cows and the studied choice of bulls, or by crossing.
Mr. Rieffel says,-
I began by attaching great value to working within the breed, which I did for many
years, and three times I thought I had succeeded in producing a strain of Breton
cattle having better shape and giving more milk. Nevertheless, the final results compelled
me to abandon this method of breeding.
Many persons decidedly prefer working within the breed, but among them all I have
met few who have had practical experience in breeding animals and very few who had bred
for a definite end and who have pursued this end many years. There are persons who are
attached to a breed which has itself become part of a system of cultivation in the country
where it is kept. In every canton there can be found a careful farmer who loves his stock
and whose animals, in general, are better looking than those of his neighbors. This man
has really improved his herd, working within the breed, - but how many generations of men
having the talent to do this are nexessary in order to reach a fundamental improvement in
the breed? There is a question.
We live too short a time for works which demand so many long years and which involve
such present expenses.
I have, therefore, worked by crossing and I have not had to wait long in order to
obtain excellent results in the conformation of my cattle, in production of milk and in
early maturity. These are surely great advantages; and in all my work, I have only one
regret, - that of time lost in trying to work within the breed.
Rise of the Guernsey breed. In 1749, Samuel Bonamy wrote his Short Account of the
Island of Guernsey, which was never published but is kept in manuscript form in the
British Museum. Of cattle Bonamy says nothing, but he describes the productions of the
Island as follows.
The climate is very healthy and temperate both as to heat and cold, by reason of the
sea breezes. The weather is not so hot in summer, nor so cold in winter, as in London; and
we seldom see any snow here. The soil is very fruitful, producing almost all manner of
food for human life in great plenty and perfection. This island is noted for good butter
and honey, if not better, at least as good as in any other country. It is supplied with
very good water both from springs and rivulets, and there is abundance of fish upon the
coast. They gather twice every year from the rocks upon the coast a sea-wrec; which in
winter serves to manure their land, and in summer for fuel. This place is noted for a
beautiful flower, called the Guernsey lily, because it grows no where else. Dr. Douglas
has published an account of it, under the title of Lilium Sarniense. For exportation they
have of their own produce (besides other goods from all parts) cider, salt, lobsters,
pebble stone, and knit stockings; the last of which generally finds employment for the
women and children of the poorest sort. It is remarkable that no venomous creature can
live in this island.
There were cattle on the Island in Bonamy`s time, for he reports that Island butter
was good, but Bonamy considered the Island cattle not worth mentioning, since they
were not produced for export like cider, salt, lobsters, pebble stone and knit stockings.
The British Port Books show no receipt in England of cows or heifers shipped from Guernsey
before the date of Bonamy`s manuscript. The Customs House Books, however, do show the
receipt in England from Guernsey, before this date, of a small number of cattle which - if
the figures of the Customs House Books are correct - were probably French animals included
in Bonamy`s reference to Island trade in foreign products - the "other goods from all
In the first half of the 19th century, Guernsey cattle were probably not very
different from cattle on the Island of Jersey. Mr. Quayle, who made a survey of both
Islands in 1815, said of cattle on Guernsey:
As little attention has yet been given to the improvement of the breed of cattle, as
in Jersey; no individual has attempted, by the selection of cattle, and breeding from
them, to raise its standard, or to attain any particular object. It is, indeed, thought by
some attentive observers residing in the island, that in point of size, cattle are
Of course, the loss of size mentioned by Mr. Quayle was a serious matter, for, in
those days, the meat value of cows was important. The defect was, however, remedied in
later years, as appears from the picture of Mr. Le Poidwin`s ox, shown on the following
page, which received the prize at the Christmas Show on the Island of Guernsey in 1844 and
which gives every evidence of a Shorthorn cross. The beefy tendency seems to have been
more favored on Guernsey than on Jersey, for in 1859 it was said the Guernsey cows had
been tried on Jersey and "not found to answer owing to a propensity to fatten."
In 1854, Mr. Ferdinand Brock Tupper published his book on The History of Guernsey
with a description of its trade, saying nothing, however, of Guernsey cattle. A change in
island stock had, however, already begun, for, in 1862, Mr. Ansted said that at this time
Guernsey cattle were larger boned "and have probably been improved by some foreign
stock." According to the Annual Report of the Royal Jersey Society for 1858, a great
number of cattle were at this time bought in the Island of Jersey and imported into
Guernsey. The result Mr. Ansted thinks very good, for, estimating the value of
native cattle by their production on a well-conducted dairy farm, he cites the
record of a farm on the island of Guernsey where the average annual produce of five cows
had been 1680 pounds of butter. Changing this figures into the figure for butter-fat, we
find that each of these cows produced about 269 pounds of butter-fat in a year, - an
amount far below the average production of cows, whether registered or not registered, in
AMerican Dairy Herd Improvement Association herds, but perhaps not below the figures of
animals whose return to meat production was good.
Even as late as 1880, it appears that Guernsey cattle were of so little importance
that the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in describing the Island of Guernsey, made no mention
whatever of cattle. As to export trade, the Encyclopaedia said:
While the island does not grow sufficient grain for its own consumption, it has a
large export of fruits and other garden produce. Parsnips were formerly one of the
principal items, but they are now less extensively cultivated, having been supplanted by
potatoes and turnips. Grapes, which were exported to the amount of 50 tons in 1873, are
the sources of an increasing trade. Granite is largely shipped at St. Sampson.
Fruits, garden products, potatoes, turnips and granite were, therefore, the only
articles which were important in the Guernsey export trade of 1880. The export trade in
cattle was not large enough to receive mention at that time. Jersey had, however,
developed en excellent export cattle business since the establishment of its Herd Book and
so, in 1882, many years after the trade in Jersey cattle had begun and four years after
the establishment of the American Guernsey Herd Book, a Herd Book for Guernsey cattle was
established on the Island by the Royal Guernsey Agricultural and Horticultural Society.
Jersey and Alderney, therefore, were the pioneers in building up the trade in Island
cattle. Guernsey is a late comer in that trade and is much the youngest of all the dairy
breeds. Politically speaking, ALderney is but a small island in the Guernsey bailiwick.
Commercially speaking, however, and with reference to cattle, the story is very different,
for the Guernsey cattle trade began in a small way and, following the path that had been
broken by Alderney, the Guernsey farmers were for many years glad to sell their cows as
Alderney cows. At the present time, Alderney cattle are registered in the Guernsey Herd
Book and the name Alderney is no longer used as a breed name. This, however, is but an
achievement of Guernsey cattle dealers and breeders during the last fifty or sixty years.
Even at the present time, however, herds of Channel Island cattle are few in Great
Britain, where they have long been of little commercial importance. A few Jersey
herds are kept on private states for the satisfaction of their owners - many of whom are
ladies, - and Guernsey herds can be found chiefly in Cornwall. In other parts of England,
a few Guernsey cows are found among many others in commercial herds, but the
Shorthorn breed is the great British dairy breed, which the Holstein Breed - or, as
it is called in England, the Friesian Breed - follows, but a long way behind.
During all the years of change among Channel Island cattle, importation of breeding
stock from England was permitted, and about 1845-1850 a marked alteration in Channel
Island cattle appeared, for, when Mr. Lewis F. Allen published his book in 1875,
black-and-white was again conspicuous among the recognized colors of Guernsey cattle,
along with other dark colors, including the roan color and rounded fom to which Mr. Allen
objected on the ground that they "savor of a Shorthorn cross," while a writer in
the Journal of the Royal Agricultural SOciety of England commented in 1889 on the red and
yellow colors of the Guernsey, which he said were "but little removed from the
colours of some of the old Teeswater cattle, the stock from which the modern Shorthorn
The fourth stage in the development of Channel Island cattle came with the reapearance
of the colors black and black-andwhite on the Islands about the middle of the 19th
century, with increase of size in Island cattle and with the improvement of airy
The history of the Channel Island breeds during the last hundred and eighty years
has, therefore, been marked by an alternate rise and fall of light and of dark colors on
Channel Island cattle- light colors being associated in the experience of Island breeders
with a small production of rich milk, while dark colors were associated in their
experience with a good production of milk, comparatively low in butter-fat. The
purpose of such Island breeders as were interested in milk production was probably to
unite in one race of cattle the Channel Island inheritance of quality, - so far as quality
could be judged in those days, - with the Dutch inheritance of quantity and body size,
because in England the ability to lay on flesh when lactation drew to an end was
important. Nevertheless the knowledge of the time as to the ways in which producing
ability is transmitted was not sufficient to make achievement of these purposes possible,
and the result, as has been seen, was an alternating rise and fall of light and of dark
colors, of Quality and quantity. When butter-fat percentage was high and cattle were light
colored and small, their production was small too. Then, when decline in production had
gone so far that, as John Tindall said, "the cost was more than the worship,"
the breeding process would be reversed. Dutch cattle, or cattle carrying the Dutch
inheritance, would be imported, black-and-white would reappear among the colors of Island
cattle, the animals would become larger and the quantity of milk produced would go up
again, while butter-fat declined until the time would come when once more the process must
be reversed - and so the movement would begin again toward "the fawn-and white"
with high butter-fat percentage but unfortunately with production low in quantity.
Progress in this way is possible. To lose on one side all that is gained on the
other side, in the end, merely to stand still. Nevertheless, the purpose which all this
time Island breeders had in mind was a thoroughly sound, feasible purpose, and, if
discarding entirely the idea of beef production, concentrating their attenton on the dairy
qualities of their cattle and instead of mating colors and type, they had mated high
transmitting ability to high transmitting ability, success would have been in their
grasp. Their object should have been to breed a race of cows yielding in large quantity
milk of a high quality. With this object in view, they mated Dutch cattle and Island
cattle, as recently, in the well-known case of the Bowlker herd, Holstein-Friesians
were mated with Guernseys. Pedigrees of this old Island breeding, could any how be made,
would show intermixtures of all possible colors - black-and-white with brown and with
brindle and with yellowand-white, - everything was there except the combination of
productive qualities which Island breeders wanted. It would have been, then, but a single
forward step - it now seems an obvious, almost a necessary step - to select breeding
stock not by colors or breed, but according to their individual excellence for the purpose
which it was desired to accomplish - bulls by the dairy qualities of their offspring, and
cows by their offspring as well as by their own producing ablity. Many breeders of
Guernseys and Jerseys during the last ten years have been influenced by the principles of
the progeny test, and some breeders of Channel Island cattle have judged the value of
their bulls by bull indexes. There are great production inheritances among Channel Island
cattle, and systematic breeding to bring these inheritances together would hold out
promise of producing an excellent race of dairy cattle.
Such an elaborate study of purely fictitious history as has been made in this
chapter, in order by prolonged and careful search of historical records to disprove
statements for which no evidence is offered, will seem to many readers a wholly
unnecessary labor.It is sure incredible that men could have believed the stories of
shipments of precious foundation stock from "the small fishing village of
Dielette"; of the inspired breeders on the islands who during many centuries refused
to admit cattle from the outside world and kept always before their eyes an ideal
conception of improving their domestic cattle; of the self-denial with which men who
suffered from lack of food for themselves and their families, nevertheless always provided
for their cattle the food necessary to maintain to maintain the breed; and of the patience
with which men in remote islands guarded their treasure until its value was first known to
the world in the 18th century. Buckle, inspeaking of the superstitions of the Middle Ages,
says that literature during many generations, instead of benefiting society, injured it by
increasing credulity. "Indeed", he says, "the aptitude for falsehood became
so great that there was nothing men were unwilling to believe."
Those days of superstition we may hope are gone forever. Even in England, where the
"pure-bred" notion was for long unquestioned, we find a demand rising for
"Scientific metholds of animal breeding." It is likely, therefore, that
before long this chapter will be of value chiefly as the record of an extraordinary vagary
of the human mind.
The fact is that the progeny test has already been accepted by intelligent breeders
of cattle as an essential instrument of progress, and that with the use of this test the
pure-bred notion must disappear.