A pair of oxen at Colonial Williamsburg.  They are Milking Devon crossed with Linebacks.

A pair of oxen at Colonial Williamsburg. They are Milking Devon crossed with Linebacks.


Illumination Weekend at Colonial Williamsburg


The first weekend of December is always Illumination Weekend at Colonial Williamsburg.  It is the kickoff of the holiday season and the historical part of town is full of Christmas decorations and wreaths that match the time period, which is the 1770’s.  That weekend and the whole month of December is full of programs such as concerts, plays and other seasonal activities.  The weekend concludes with fireworks and if you position yourself in the right location you can see all three fireworks displays at once.

The Cattle and Other Livestock

Elaine Shirley is head of the livestock at Colonial Williamsburg and does talks ab0ut and demonstrations with the livestock under her care, which are the cattle, sheep, swine and poultry.  The horses and coaches are under different supervision, but the two departments work closely together.  They work hard researching, locating, procuring and caring for animals that are historically accurate for the time period.  Through their research they have found that Devon cattle were in Virginia during this time period. George Washington owned Devons and an ad in the local Williamsburg paper of this time period gave a description of some cattle that matched Devon cattle of that time.

A spring born heifer calf that is fullblood Milking Devon.

A spring born heifer calf that is fullblood Milking Devon.


The Devon cattle of that time period were much like today’s Milking Devon and were not bred for only meat like today’s Red Devon.  They were  used as draft animals and provided milk for the colonial families along with meat. The Devons at Colonial Williamsburg today are Milking Devon and the original group procured in the mid 1980’s came from the Alice Ziegra herd in New Hampshire.  They have have since bought, borrowed and traded animals to increase numbers and keep some variation in the genetic base.  They have used the Trailblazer bull from Lakota Ranch some in the past and like to lease and borrow bulls so they do not have to keep bulls in the historical area because of concerns of controlling the bulls with period fences.  In December they had 3 fullblood Milking Devon heifer calves in one area that were as gentle as pets and curious of all people, even strangers.  In another area were two oxen that were Milking Devon crossed with Linebacks.  I do not know if the Lineback breeding is the same as today’s rare breed of American Linebacks or some other breed.  There is a group of 20 something Milking Devons on a farm outside of town.

I learned that the oxen almost always had horns because otherwise the yokes might slide off the oxen if they lowered their heads.  If the oxen did not have horns then the yoke beam would have to be carved or grooved to tightly fit the necks of the oxen.  Elaine said that the Devon oxen enjoy working on the demonstration farm at Williamsburg and when in yoke are very anxious to start working.  The two oxen in the top picture were in a lot with a new team of horses.  The horses had not been around cattle before and were startled when seeing the cattle.  That was not good when pulling the coaches full of people on the streets so they were put together so the horses could get use to them.

A 1776 Merry Christmas

A 1776 Merry Christmas


“tis the Season”

On behalf of everyone associated with Red Devon USA, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year in 2015.