American Livestock Breeds from Colonial Times
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The Ossabaw breed is biologically unique. The periods of feast and famine on the barrier island led to a biochemical adaptation similar to non-insulin dependent diabetes in humans, making the pigs a natural animal model for researching Type II diabetes. Ossabaw hogs are usually black, although some are black with white spots or light with black spots. Adult pigs are hairy, with heavy bristles around the head and neck. The breed is particularly well-suited for sustainable or pastured pork production. A few populations of Ossabaw hogs have been established on the mainland, but the critical status of this breed makes it a conservation priority.
Milking Devon Cattle
Beginning in 1623, the Pilgrims imported British Devon cattle to New England. The hardiness of the breed and the ready availability of the cattle near British ports made them an obvious choice for the transatlantic voyage. The breed became well-established in Colonial America, spreading as far as Florida. Later, Devon oxen were the draft animals of choice for pioneers braving
the Oregon Trail. By the 1950s, the market for tri-
purpose cattle was shrinking, and the Devon faced extinction. Breeders who continued to select their animals for the traditional purposes of milk, meat and draft helped give rise to the American Milking Devon breed.
Today, the American Milking Devon is distinct from other Devon populations around the world. Milking Devons are a rich, ruby red with black-tipped, white horns. They’re medium-sized and adapted to survive on high forage diets. The breed is prized by artisan cheese and butter makers for its high butterfat milk. With fewer than 200 Milking Devons left in the United States, this American original may soon be a historical footnote.
Beginning in the 1500s, Spanish explorers brought goats from Spain to the Caribbean Islands and from there to what would become the United States and Mexico. As a ready source of milk, meat and hides, Spanish goats were taken everywhere the Spaniards went and became an integral part of subsistence production. The use of goats for meat was also important because it allowed cattle to be reserved for draft power, essential for crop production and transportation. Spanish goats were the only goats known across the southern United States and in most other parts of the Americas for more than 300 years.