History in Australia

The Devon is one of the oldest British breeds of cattle being gradually standardised in the five south-western counties of England, where they have been recognised as a distinctive breed for at least two and a half centuries.

The success of the Devon breed in Australia is associated with the ability to produce top quality beef, both straightbred and as a cross, under varying climatic conditions.

When the first fleet arrived from England to Sydney Cove on the 26th of January 1788 they had on board two bulls and seven cows.

That had been obtained from the Cape of Good Hope on Southern Africa. An official report in 1793 states that the object was to establish a permanent stock of cattle in the colony. Further stock were sourced from the Cape and also India and by 1800 there were 332 bulls and oxen and 712 cows in the colony. Six years later there were 5,286 head.

Although cattle of this early period were named by their colour and horn, their place of origin gave only a vague hint as to their breed type. Devon cattle would have certainly been included among the “English Breed” described in many early reports. The first reference specifically to Devon cattle appears in evidence given to the Bigge inquiry by John Macarthur in 1820.. Macarthur stated that his cattle were ‘founded upon the Bengal Cape and English breeds, the last being a mixture of Devon, Suffolk and Lancashire’.

William Kent, who imported pure bred cattle into Tasmania in the early1800s, has been credited with the introduction of Devons into Australia, the first being a Devon bull which was imported with a few Shorthorn cows. However, it is almost certain that Devons had landed much earlier than this although no records actually show this.

References to ‘English-bred ‘ cattle also appear in early Tasmanian reports where an article entitled ‘An Account of the Colony of Van Diemens Land’ by Edward Curr, was published in London in 1824. Curr states that ‘The horned cattle in Van Diemens Land …..being principally derived from stock bought from Bengal at the early foundation of the Colony, and consequently partaking, in a great degree, of the buffalo. These however have been much improved by crossing with English bred bulls, and the produce of cows brought from England.

The Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania) Annual for the year 1834 gives a general picture that appears to cover both Colony of Van Dieman’s Land and the Colony of New South Wales. ‘The first cattle were brought here in 1807, and were a coarse sort of buffalo animal sold by the Government to the settlers, at a long credit. The stock thus once laid, afterwards improved with the growth of the Colony; and about eight or nine years ago (1825-1826), the importation of superior bred animals from England began to be an object of attention with certain emigrants who where embarking hither, so that, by degrees, the old original breed has now become almost lost.

We have had pure DEVONS, Herefords, Durhams, Holdernesses, Fifeshires, and others of the most admired breeds among the English farmers, brought here in considerable numbers. Large importations of their best and improved crosses have for some years previously, from time to time, been made from New South Wales; so that many individuals had been possessed of herds, very different from the original stock, even before these English importations reached us. At present, either for the yoke or the pail, for docility or for hardiness

the improved breed of cattle, which is rapidly taking place of all other, cannot be surpassed

Specific references to breeds of cattle, and in particular Devons, begin around the middle of the 1820’s. On the 4th of February 1825, James Bryant arrived in Tasmania and was joined in October by his family. Also arriving at the same time was a two year old Devon bull and a heifer of the same age. Consequently, the Hobart Town Gazette published on the 31st December 1825 carried the following advertisement; ‘for the convenience of the Gentlemen of Hobart Town, and the neighbourhood; for two months only, a beautiful Devon bull, two years old, at two guineas each cow. – application to be made to Mr. Edmund Bryant, Rock House, Campbell Street; or to Mr. James Bryant, at Jerico’. The Devon bull was one of eight Devon cattle on board the ship Mountaineer that arrived at Hobart Town on the 24th of October 1825. The Devons were also described as being thoroughbred.

Edmund and James Bryant were granted land at ‘Sand Hill’ at Jerico and Eastern Marshes and Devon cattle were pastured there until 1845 when ‘Sand Hill’ was taken over by the Bisdee family. Devon cattle remained there for over 50 years more. The Eastern Marshes grant still has Devon cattle running on it. Some of Edmund Bryants cattle were acquired by the Trethewie family also in 1845.

On the 7th of May 1826 George Hobler, his wife and servants, arrived in Hobart, bringing with them a Devonshire heifer known as Fairmaid. Hobler journeyed to Launceston where he purchased the Killafaddy estate on the 30th of June. The Devon heifer was apparently depastured with James Bryant’s bull at Jerico on the 15th of July 1826. In his application for a land grant, Hobler states that he had ‘secured some cattle of the highest blood in the North Devon breed so valuable for draught’.

The Trethewie family had arrived in northern Tasmania from Truro in 1842 and started their herd the following year with stock acquired from Edmund Bryant, George Hobbler and two other breeders named Manley and W.N.Whittle. The Whittle family had originated from Dorset and it is of interest that a bull named Statesman that they imported was out of Rose 3 by Prince Alfred 103, who appeared in the first volume of Davey’s Devon Herd Book. A John Lord founded his herd in 1851 with Defender22 and Comely being imported from England

In 1861 John Trethewie exhibited a bull bred by himself and another bred by W. Whittle. During the 1800’s the Trethewie family of Whisloca sent many cattle to New South Wales. Whisloca Devons were shipped to Sydney on the Southern Cross on the 4th of May 1875 destined for Dyrabba, near Casino, northern New South Wales. The purchasers were the Barnes and Smith Bros. Forty cows and heifers, one yearling bull and four calves were in the shipment. Whisloca imported many English Devons, and from 1921 to the herd’s dispersal in 1964, 8 bulls and 7 heifers were purchased from Havilah in New South Wales. During this period 1 bull and 4 heifers came from England.

George Hobler left Tasmania in 1836 and went to Sydney. Despite floods, drunken convict servants, bushfires and attacks by bushrangers, Hobler left Tasmania with a considerable amount of capital. He also took some choice Devons, descended from Fairmaid and a Hereford bull and some cows. Hobler went to the Liverpool Plains, taking up Wee Waa Station. His residence was at Aberglassyn near Maitland. However, in the severe depression of 1841 Hobler was ruined.

In 1843, three hundred of Hobler’s best cattle were sold to Mr. Charles Reynolds from Tocal. Reynolds had arrived in Australia in 1829 from Raddon Court, near Exeter in Devonshire, where he managed his father’s, Tom Reynolds, herd. This herd was sold in 1826 shortly before Charles left for Australia. On arrival out here he bought a small property, “South Park”, near Maitland on the Hunter River, NSW, and commenced breeding a few Devons. In 1842 he purchased ten imported cows. He then was in touch with Mr. James Quartly in England to select him two bulls, which he did and they arrived the following year.

Charles Reynolds moved his Devons to Duninald in 1860. The cows and heifers descended from Hoblers pure stock were; Maid of Devon, Peeress, Countess, Rachell, Tulip, Daisy, Duchess, Myrtle, Duchess 2, Butterfly, Marchioness and Nancy. Charles and his son Frank, also imported an impressive line of Devon bulls and females from England. Bulls and females were also purchased from H. C. White.

This herd was to become the base for the expansion of the breed on mainland Australia. In 1854 Mr. Charles Reynolds found that his property “South Park” was not big enough to carry his fast increasing herd so he leased the Tocal Estate from Mr. Hobler until 1864 when he purchased it outright. In that year he visited Tasmania and purchased 23 cows and heifers from the Lord family. He also bought a number of females from Mr. John Trethewie. In 1871 Mr. Charles Reynolds was accidentally killed in a fall from his horse and Mr. Frank Reynolds then took over the management of Tocal and spared no expense in maintaining the excellence of the Devon herd.

Further Devon cattle were imported to Australia in 1850 by the brothers Charles, John and Alexander Codrington of Wiltshire, England. Charles had taken over some of the original Ben Lomond Station (NSW) in 1848. They were bought out by the Bagot Brothers ten years later and the Devon herd on Ben Lomond Station was further improved by the introduction of purebred Devon bulls purchased from Charles Reynolds of Tocal.

In 1875 John Tanner Davey of Rose Ash, near South Molton in Devon, published volume 6 of the Devon Herd Book. In this volume appears the bull Admiral 986 and the cows and heifers, Actress and Judy. They were purchased by C. T. Bagot, Ben Lomond, Armidale, New South Wales. These cattle were added to the already long established Devon herd of Ben Lomond station. The Bagot’s sold out in 1910-1911 and Charles David Judge bought 200 yearling Devon heifers for Ban Ban. Tocal blood Devons from Glen Alpine stud, Quirindi, were added at the dispersal of this stud. A large number of Devon females were added from R. A. Howell’s Devon Court herd. Many imported cattle were purchased in England for Ban Ban over the years. From 1934 onwards Ban Ban have exhibited regularly at the Royal Easter Show.

At West Maitland on the 12th and 13th of March 1901 the Tocal Devon stud was sold.

Sid Reynolds still had his Devon stud at Duninald and was a purchaser of Tocal Devons. Frank Payne of Wombramurra purchased the bulls Bondsman and Gay Lad and 4 cows and 4 heifers at 7 1/2 guineas. J. C. Manchee purchased 4 cows and calves at 11 guineas and 4 at 13 guineas.

The Wombramurra herd had been founded in 1891 by Mr. F. C. Payne of Nundle, New South Wales, by the purchase of twenty pure bred Devon heifers from a Mr. Cox of Muswellbrook, and in the same year thirteen cows and heifers were bought at the dispersal sale of Mr. Reginald Wyndham, Leconfield. Wombramurra imported cattle from England prior to 1958, however by far the largest purchases were of Havilah cattle.

The White family of Havilah commenced breeding Devon cattle in 1872 at Woodlands, Denman, when H. C. White purchased twelve females from various English herds and one bull from England, the bull being Prince Christian Victor, bred by Her Majesty Queen Victoria. In 1901 Henry Charles White (1837-1905) visited and purchased Capton Apricot and Capton Plum and the bull Capton King from Alfred Bowerman, Capton Farm, Williton, Somerset. The Capton cattle were brought out from England by Ernest Merson, who was to become the much respected herdmaster of Havilah for the next sixty years. In 1904 H. C. White’s son Henry Hunter White (1867-1947) took the management of Havilah on from his father. In 1908 Ernest Merson went back to England and purchased the outstanding heifer Pound Brassy 14 from Mr. Skinner for 50 guineas and from this heifer came the successful Brassy family of today. In 1915 Edward Merson, Ernest’s brother, sent out Crazelowman Forester, used in the stud until 1928 and perhaps the most successful bull ever to be used at Havilah.

Havilah Devons were first exhibited at the Sydney Royal Show in 1903, and were only absent in 1909 when Ernest Merson was in England. Hunter White imported new blood regularly, between 1906 and 1946 he imported 14 top bulls and 10 of the best females available. On the 18th of April 1935 Hunter White was elected Chairman and first President of the Devon Society, now Devon Cattle Breeder’s Society of Australia. Hunter White’s son Peter White (1901-1970) directed the Havilah stud from the time of his father’s death. From 1947 to the restriction of imports in 1958 Havilah imported several very influential Devons, Carey Candidate, Carey Civil Servant and Peverstone Passport being three of them.

In 1860 the Willow Vale herd in Tasmania was founded by the purchase of two heifers bred from stock imported from England by Mr. Samuel French.

Marchington, near Launceston in Tasmania was home to a herd of pedigree Devon cattle from 1888 to 1959. In 1888 Charles B. Grubb purchased the bull Red Bank, descended directly from imported stock and females from Miles Bennett. In 1889, 50 cows were purchased from Whisloca. In 1892 three females from Richard Bickle, Bradstone Hall, Tavistock, were purchased and brought successfully to Tasmania. They were Jenny 10562, Blue Bell 10555 and Flower 10560. In 1919 Star of Havilah was purchased from Hunter White, followed by Best Man, Bando Leader and in October 1937, Havilah Daniel 22 by Cutsey Daniel (Imp.). In May 1945, Ban Ban Flush was bought from Len Judge. In 1948 Criddles Vendible 2 was imported from England, he was followed by Riddlecombe Jewel in 1953. Climsland Zero purchased by W. Standbury for G. B. Grubb and left England in June 1955. Marchington, after the death of G. B. Grubb, son of the founder, was dispersed on the 7th of May 1959.

The year 1917 saw the foundation of one of the largest Devon studs in Australia, if not the world. Mr. R. A. Howell of Devon Court, Killarney South, Queensland, founded his stud herd by purchasing the last of the famous Tocal herd of Devons from Mr. Sydney Reynolds, who had bought them from his brother, Frank, and in 1902 transferred them across the Paterson River to his own property, Duninald. Sires purchased by Mr. Howell to join with these cows included Field Marshall and Baronet 17th in 1917 and Foresters Gold Dust 16th in 1922. In volume one of the Devon Herd Book of Australia published in 1929, there are listed 23 females transferred from Sidney Reynolds to R. A. Howell. The females were Lusty’s, Conterra’s, Lydia’s, Gypsy Countess’, Bella, Levinia and Lady Evelyn. These female lines later went on to Ban Ban, Newstead and other well known Devon studs.

Many bulls were imported from England for the Devon Court herd, the most noteworthy being Enmore Comet, regarded as one of the three top bulls ever to have been imported into Australia. Mr. Howell was a very particular breeder about the pedigree of sires he purchased, which led him to purchase for 150 guineas from England the outstanding bull Carey Cabin Boy. Mr. Howell acquired several cattle properties in Northern Queensland and by the year 1951, his whole Devon herd numbered approximately 5,000 head.

In 1913 the Carngham herd of Devon cattle was founded by purchases of two bulls and four heifers from C. B. Grubb, Strathroy, Tasmania. Further purchases were made in 1920 and in 1922 Highfield Leader 2nd and two heifers were imported from Mr. C. Morris, Highfield, England, and in 1926 one bull, Crazelowman Perfection, and two heifers were received from Havilah in exchange for Highfield Leader 2nd and three heifers. Further purchases to the Carngham Stud were made over the next 20 years mostly from the Havilah stud.

Numerous importations of cattle were made over a period of years by Havilah, Ban Ban, Wombramurra and Whisloca studs, up until the time of World War 11. Immediately prior to the second World War the bull Werrington Moorman was imported and with him came Stoney Weekday and the bull Morchard Dignity, to Ban Ban. Moorman had a great influence on the cattle at Havilah and was used for many years, also his sons were used during the war when imports were impossible. After the war, Clampit Forester 3rd was imported followed by Carey Civil Servant and Carey Candidate, then Halsdon Sir David.

Immediately following World War II, in 1947-48, saw the formation of the Newstead Stud, at Newstead South, Elsmore, New South Wales, with the purchase of cattle from Ban Ban, Devon Court, Havilah and Table Top. This was to be followed by the importation of probably the largest number of bulls and cows by any single Devon herd. Notably the importations included:

Bulls-Ajaz, Bartridge, Emigrate, Crazelowman, Brick, Potheridge Sweepstake, Werrington Mariner 2nd, Ewshot Majestic, Mainstone Briton, Argus, Pinkhill Brick, Apollo

Cows-Batridge Myrtle, Batridge Cherry 2nd, Brightly Bluebell 5th, Cocos, Cothelstone Coins, Cothelstone Principal, Crazelowman Buttercup 15th, Crazeloman Rosa 9th, Down Beauty, Riddlecombe Moonshine 15, Riverside Lily 3rd, Werrington Dame 2nd, Carey Cherry 14th, Escott Primrose, Escott Sunflower, Roborough Milkmaid 39th, Riverside Lily 4th, Redmore Johanna 2nd, Clampit Flirt 21st and Brightly Beauty 29th.

Further notable importations prior to the cessation of direct cattle imports in 1954 were – Halsdon Showman to the Hill Stud in Victoria; Climsland Zero to Marchington; Clampit Stockman to Gibralter; Ford Masterman to Ban Ban; Escott Jumbo to Banoole; Clampit Golddigger and Mainstone Denarius to Wombramurra, Pead Hill Kind Regards to Whisloca and Trebant Majesty to Carngham. The last imports in before the ban was the bull Peverstone Passport and the heifer Carey Darkie 38th.

Since the fifties there have been many new studs formed as many of the old original herds have dispersed. The importation of new genetic material has slowed and been mainly by artificial insemination. While many other breeds have imported genetics from North America that have dubious backgrounds the Devon breed has largely resisted this temptation to shortcut genetic progress. Thus Devons in Australia retain the genetic purity of the breed that has been developed over several centuries in their original homeland.

This does not mean that the breed has not continued to develop. The use of modern management and breeding techniques has seen Devon adapt well to the modern beef industry. Performance recording has seen superior animals identified and widely used and polled strains are now widely available. Devons have a proud past, one that will hold them in good stead for the future.