While the presence of cattle
in south-west England can be traced for some 7000 years,
the South Devon is thought to have existed in these parts
for about 400 years. It is believed to have evolved from
the large red cattle of Normandy which were imported to
England at the time of the Norman invasion.
Historical evidence indicates that isolation
caused the divergence of the North and South Devon into physically
distinct types, though occasional crossing between the two breeds
occurred until the mid-19th century. Over 100 years of selection
for performance have given the South Devon its outstanding qualities
of beef and maternal characteristics.
The South Devon is the largest of the British native
breeds, being large-framed, more muscular in conformation,
later maturing in terms of fat deposition, but early maturing
in terms of puberty.
Its colour is a rich, medium red with copper
tints, though it varies in shade and can even appear slightly
mottled. The skin is exceptionally thick, loose and mellow.
The breed is mostly horned although naturally polled individuals
do exist and polling is now being actively pursued. The South
Devon temperament is excellent, giving rise to the nickname
South Devons yield leaner carcases than do
other British breeds. In research in the USA and Australia the
South Devon has proved to be amongst the foremost breeds for
intramuscular fat ('marbling') - a highly desirable trait for
taste and tenderness - as opposed to subcutaneous fat. Although
most herds were milked during and soon after the Second World
War, since the 1960s the trend has been increasingly towards
beefier sires. Although it is now a purely beef breed, the dual-purpose
heritage has significance for the suckling of calves.
TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE SOUTH DEVON BREED
VISIT THE SOUTH DEVON HERD