Research-Article| Volume 25, ISSUE 2, P129-154, February 1942

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The Introduction of Cattle into Colonial North America*

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      The data contained in the literature reviewed, points to the fact that cattle were imported directly to Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Delaware, and possibly southern New Jersey, from the colonizing European countries. Many cattle, however, were brought into the southwest, the Gulf area, Florida and the southeast from the Spanish possessions in the West Indies and from Mexico. It also appears that many cattle containing at least some Spanish inheritance were shipped into Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
      The initial mass importations of cattle from Europe into the North American colonies ceased about 1640. From that date to the American Revolution the cattle needs of the colonies were taken care of through intercolonial trade, or through trade with the Spanish colonies in the Western Hemisphere. A few cattle from the French Colonies in the St. Lawrence River Valley found their way into the “Old Northwest”.
      The cattle improvement era did not start in England until many years after the initial period of importations into America had closed, and in America there was no basic work in cattle improvement during that period.
      American breeders waited for the English and European stockmen to supply the superior breeding stock which was so necessary in grading up the common cattle that by 1800 had increased to several million head.
      From 1640 to 1800 there was only an occasional animal imported and the only real possibility for general improvement of the milch cows lay in selection from within the existing cattle population.
      From 1800 to 1860 there were few attempts to protect the “purity” of the improved cattle which were being imported from time to time. The efforts made in the past 80 years to improve cattle in general, and particularly dairy cattle, have not been sufficient to eliminate all of the influence of the cattle that were bred in America for the first 250 years. To be convinced of this fact one needs only to travel through the southeastern part of the United States-the oldest cattle country in our nation.


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