Red Devon Cattle are descendants of ancient cattle breeds from the Southwest of England. Known for their ruby red coat (sometimes leading to the name of Devon Ruby or Red Ruby), the breed are remarkably resilient, lead to quality beef, are great at grass-based production, and have one of the purest genetics of any cattle breed.
Here at Cove Creek Farm we’ve made it our business to know the in’s and out’s of this remarkable breed. We’ve raised Red Devons for meat as well as Red Devons for sale for the last several years, and we are happy to answer whatever questions you may have about buying our beef or starting your own herd of Red Devon!
In our time working with Red Devons we’ve gathered some interesting insights into the breed that we’ve compiled below. If you’re looking for a more structured guide to red devon, check out our page detailing answers to many of the most common questions about Red Devon.
Red Devon Origins
- Red Devon have a long and illustrious history, with mentions as early as 55 B.C.E as Ancient Romans moved through Southwest Britannia.
- Some authorities on the matter believe Red Devons to have prehistoric origins, descending from Bos lonqifrons (the smaller form of beef native to the British Isles).
- Red Devons received their modern name as they were cultivated in the Southwest England counties of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, and Dorset.
- Early improvers of the breed had the foresight to not oversell their best specimens during high beef demand during the Napoleonic Wars.
- Red Devons were one of the earliest breeds of cattle present in North America, arriving on the pilgrim ship Charity in 1623.
- Red Devons flourished throughout New England in the 1600’s.
- In the 1700 and 1800’s, Red Devons were brought down the East coast all the way down to Florida. Additionally, Red Devon oxen were often the choicest animals for pulling wagons west on the Oregon Trail.
- The demand for more multi-purpose cattle throughout the 1800’s led to fewer and fewer Red Devon outside of New England.
- Since the 1950’s, Red Devons have seen a resurgence built on the drop in demand for multi-purpose cattle and for many of the reasons the breed was originally cherished.
- Red Devons are also referred to as North Devon Cattle to distinguish them from some of their closest relatives, South Devons (a yellow breed) and American Milking Devons.
Red Devon Characteristics
- Red Devons have historically been valued for their top-notch beef and particularly rich milk (used to make Devonshire Cream). They have historically been draft animals as well.
- Over the last half century Red Devons have primarily been used for beef. Though American Milking Devons can still be found.
- Red Devons were historically known as one of the most active (yet docile) cattle breeds in England.
- Red Devons thrive in rough forage found in hills, high valleys, and mountainous regions.
- The hardiness and ability to thrive on rough foliage of the breed make it an excellent choice for grass-centered production.
- Red Devons have well-adapted coats that are long and curly in the winter, and short and sleek during the summer.
- Red Devons have the thickest hides of all cattle breeds, helping the breed resist parasites and remain resilient to temperature changes.
- Red Devons grow to a size to be practical and commercially viable without rising to weights associated with large maintenance costs.
- Mature Red Devon Bulls can grow to a weight of 1700 to 2,200 pounds.
- Mature Red Devon Cows can grow to a weight of 950 to 1,300 pounds.
- Red Devons ability to walk and forage well have promoted their use in “rougher” areas where grass finishing is used including New Zealand, southern Brazil, Australia, New England, Louisiana, Texas, and Appalachia.
- Red Devons have been used extensively as draft cattle in Australia.
- The adaptability and toughness of Red Devons make them one of the best breeds for changing climates.
- Red Devons mature at a slower rate than many cattle types. But their beef is often considered of higher quality.
- Certain Red Devon strains are horned while others are polled. Depending on your preference you should be able to find a starter herd with either of these characteristics.
Red Devon Fertility and Reproduction
- Red Devon’s history as milk and beef animals have provided it with better maternal abilities than many other breeds.
- Red Devons have no naturally-occuring calving issues associated with the breed that are recorded.
- Red Devon genetics are remarkably pure and largely untouched since the emergence of grain feedlots (post WWII), making them more at home with grass finishing.
- Mothering Red Devons typically cycle before one year of age, have an easy time calving, and produce rich high-butterfat milk.
- Healthy Red Devon heifers will often calve before two years of age and then rebreed within 45 days.