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Specializing in Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys & Irish Dexter Cattle


Irish Dexter Cattle ~ A Heritage Breed

 American Livestock Breeds Conservatory

The Dexter originated in southern Ireland during the early 1800s. It was believed to have been developed from the Kerry, an Irish dairy breed, through selection for smaller size and improved beef qualities. The breed name came from a Mr. Dexter, who promoted the cattle during the mid 1800s. The Dexter became popular with small holders in Ireland and in England, who appreciated its efficiency in producing both milk and beef on limited acreage. The first recorded importation of Dexter Cattle to American occurred when over 200 Dexter’s and Kerry’s were brought from England to the states between 1905 and 1915. A large percentage of these were imported to three major farms:

The Elmendorf Farm (Elmendorf Herd) in Lexington, Kentucky (eventually completely dispersed in 1917.

    The Castlegould Herd owned by Howard Gould of Port Washington, New York

    The North Oaks Herd, owned by Mrs. James J. Hill of Gladstone, Minnesota. Mrs. Hill was the wife of the famous railroad magnate James Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway. Mr. H. C. Lawton was employed as the Superintendent Breeder of Dexter’s for this herd. She also purchased additional animals from Mrs. Clarence Moore of Washington D. C. and from Elmendorf Farm.

In 1917, the Castlegould herd was sold to the famous metals industrialist Daniel Guggenheim of Port Washington, who changed the herd name to Hempstead House. Daniel’s brother was the benefactor of the famous Guggenheim Museum in New York. Several years later, a part of the Hempstead herd was sold to Mrs. Louisa Satterlee (Dover House Farm) of Greenwich, Connecticut.

Other early Dexter herds include:

    The Ophir Herd, owned by Mrs. Whitelaw Reid in Purchase, New York. This was a small herd of both Dexter and Kerry cattle.

    The Grant’s Farm Herd, owned by August Anheuser Busch in St. Louis Missouri. Busch was part of the Busch Beer family. He purchased several Dexters from C.D Gregg of St. Louis and additional animals from the Elmendorf Herd in Kentucky.

    The Big Tree Herd, owned by James N. Hill of new York, New York. He purchased his small herd from Elmendorf Farm.

    Xalapa Herd, owned by E.F. Simms of Houston, Texas. He built a Dexter herd in Paris, Kentucky from animals purchased at Elmendorf Farm.

    Mountain View Herd, owned by William R. Bush of Benson, Vermont, who also bought his Dexters from Elmendorf Farm.

    Clove brook Herd, owned by Mrs. Mabel Ingalls. These animals were obtained from Mrs. Louisa Satterlee (Mabel’s mother) at Dover House Farm. Mrs. Ingalls also imported some Dexters from England.

    Peerless Herd, owned by John Logsdon (bought for his daughter Nancy Logsdon), in Decorah Iowa. In 1918 Mr. Logsdon bought his foundation animals from the Elmendorf Herd, Grant’s Farm Herd (August A. Busch), and North oaks Herd (Mrs. James J Hill). Later, Nancy Logsdon acquired two of Daniel Guggenheim’s bulls: Warrior of Hempstead House and Captain of Hempstead House. The Peerless Herd grew to 150 head by 1944. Ownership passed from Nancy to her sister Daisy Moore, and then to Daisy’s daughter and son, Kay Moore Baker and Michael Moore.

The first official American Kerry and Dexter Cattle Club was established in July of 1911. Kerry cattle and Dexter cattle registrations were kept separate, each eventually forming an independent group. The offspring of a Kerry/Dexter cross was regarded as a cross bred and was not eligible for registration. Soon after the publication of the 1921 herd book, the club ceased to operate and its records were placed in the care of the Animal Husbandry Department of Ohio State University.

After the reorganization of the American Kerry and Dexter Club in 1940, the official name was finally changed to the American Dexter Cattle Association in 1957. 

Import of British Dexter’s was renewed in the United States from the 1950’s through the 1970’s Prominent in the pedigree of many modern American Dexter’s are animals from such British herds as Grinstead Herd, Atlantic Herd, Parndon Herd, and Woodmagic Herd.

Even after the Dexter gained an identity as a breed, its history remained intertwined with that of the Kerry. For many years the two breeds were registered in a single herd book, and some people considered Dexter’s to be a dwarf type of Kerry. Recent blood typing research, however, has determined that the Dexter and the Kerry, though closely related, are genetically distinct breeds. They should not be crossbred with each other.

Dexter cattle are solid and compact in appearance. Most Dexter’s are black, though red and dun are also found. The cattle were originally horned, and their black tipped white horns arc upward. Two body conformations are found within the breed: cattle with normal bodies and very short legs, and cattle, which are proportionately small in every dimension. Because the short legged type occasionally produces nonviable offspring, it has fallen out of favor, while the proportionate type has become more popular.

The Dexter has always attracted attention because of its size, and it has sometimes been marketed as a novelty or ornamental breed. This practice has obscured the breeds production value. Dexter’s are hardy, forage efficient cattle with excellent maternal qualities. As with other dual purpose breeds, the quantity of milk produced varies between strains; those strains that have had more dairy selection produce more milk, while those that have been selected for beef produce less. The milk produced is high in solids, making it ideal for butter and cheese production. Dexter beef is lean and high in quality. The small size of the carcass makes the breed an excellent choice for use in direct marketing programs. Dexter’s are good browsers and can rid pastures of some pest plants, and they may also be used as oxen.
Becoming practically extinct in the United States by the mid 1970’s, their upsurge in popularity has now earned them a place on the American Livestock Breed Conservatory.
Dexter cattle are increasing in numbers in North America and globally, and the breed seems destined to succeed. The challenge facing breeders, however, is to maintain historic selection practices so that the Dexter production qualities are conserved and promoted.

Dexter Characteristics
Dexter’s come in black, red or dun. They are horned or polled.
The daily yield of milk is 1-3 gallons per day with butterfat content of 4-5%.
Beef animals mature in 18-35 months and dress out at 50-60% of body weight, the meat is high quality and lean with little waste

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Cyder Bay Farm

David & Robin Irlbeck
1550 E. Assman Rd.   Mishicot, WI 54228
Phone 920.755.4523

Email Us: donk@cyderbayfarm.com

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