Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science
Breeds of Livestock - Dexter Cattle
The native home of the Dexter is in the southern part of Ireland where they were bred by small holders and roamed about the shelterless mountainous districts in an almost wild state of nature.
The origin of the Dexter is quite obscure. The common assumption has been that this breed is a cross between the Kerry and some other breed, perhaps the Devon. It has also been claimed that a "Mr. Dexter," who was agent to Lord Hawarden, is responsible for this Irish breed.
The introduction of the Dexter to America probably occurred long ago, when no discrimination was made between Kerry and Dexter in importations. The first recorded knowledge of Dexters in America is when more than two hundred Dexters were imported to the United States between 1905 and 1915. A large percentage of these were imported to Elmendorf Farm (Elmendorf herd) of Kentucky, Howard Gould (Castlegould herd) of New York, and James J. Hill (North Oaks herd) of Minnesota. In 1917, the Castlegould herd was sold to Daniel Guggenheim of Port Washington, who changed the herd name to Hempstead House. Several years later, a part of the Hempstead herd was sold to Mrs. Louisa Satterlee (Dover House Farm) of Greenwich, Connecticut.
Two of our present herds got their Dexters directly from the above mentioned herds. Foundation stock for the Clove Brook herd (now owned by Jan van Heerden, son-in-law of Mabel Ingalls) was obtained from Mrs. Ingalls' mother, Mrs. Louisa Satterlee. The foundation for the Peerless herd at Decorah, Iowa, was obtained by John Logsdon from the Elmendorf Farm, August A. Busch and James J. Hill, in 1919. Later, two bulls were obtained successively from Daniel Guggenheim, owner of Hempstead House herd. In 1944, when the Peerless herd had their first public sale, the herd numbered 150 head of cows and heifers. Peerless herd is the oldest Dexter herd in the United States.
Since 1950, Mrs. Mabel Ingalls, Stewart and Frances Kellog, Edward C. Lord and Mrs. Margaret Rhodes have imported several head of Dexters from England. A number of these and their offspring have been sold to other breeders. In 1982, Mrs. Doris Crowe of Canada imported several head from England and sold several head to interested new parties.
The first A.I. program was introduced in 1968.
In recent years there has been a worldwide surge of interest in Dexter cattle. These gentle, hardy and easy to handle animals are one of the world's smallest bovines. They require less pasture and feed than other breeds. They thrive in hot as well as cold climates and do well outdoors year round, needing only a windbreak, shelter and fresh water. Fertility is high and calves are dropped in the field without difficulty. They are dual purpose, being raised for both milk and meat.
Size and Appearance
According to the standards adopted by the American Dexter Cattle Association, the ideal three year old Dexter bull measures 38 to 44 inches at the shoulder and weighs less than 1000 pounds. The ideal three year old Dexter cow measures between 36 to 42 inches at the shoulder, and weighs less than 750 pounds. There are two varieties of Dexters, short legged and long legged or Kerry type. Milk and beef production and other characteristics are generally the same for both types. The same dam and sire may produce a short legged calf in one mating and a long legged calf the next.
Most Dexters are solid black. Red or dun are less common. Horns on cows are fine and curved forward. Bulls' horns are thick, solid, and slightly curved at the tips. The distinctive head is short and wide between the eyes, with straight sides.
A milking cow can produce more milk for its weight than any other breed. The daily yield averages 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 gallons with a butterfat content of 4 to 5 percent. Yields of cream up to one quart per gallon are possible. The cream can be skimmed for butter or ice cream.
Beef animals mature in 18 months and result in small cuts of high quality lean meat, graded choice, with little waste. The expectable average dress out is 50 to 60 percent and the beef is slightly darker red than that of other breeds.
Reference:American Dexter Cattle Association,Photographs:
4150 Merino Ave.
Watertown MN 55388
952-446-1423American Dexter Cattle Association,as aquired by Dr. Michael L. Thonney, Professor of Animal Science, Cornell University
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy PO Box 477; Pittsboro, NC 27312
Hobbit Hill Dexter Stud, Australia