Updated by Wayne Aspin 2013.
Sources NZ Papers Past and Devons 1840-1990 booklet
Oral history has the first importation of Devon Cattle into New Zealand was by James Busby, British Resident for the Queen (Victoria), stationed at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands, Northland in 1838. It is said that a small breeding group of 20 heifers and one bull was sent out from England. By examining New Zealand Papers Past internet site, and further research into written New Zealand history, cannot bring up any written connection of Devons and James Busby. History records that over a period of two decades Busby farmed several large blocks of land in the Bay of Islands and Whangarei Districts importing livestock, materials labourers, shepherds, stockmen to NZ at his own expense from Sydney, Australia, but no mention of Devon cattle from England.
The first written record of Devons in New Zealand appears in the 1839-1850 History of Ngunguru; reproduced in the Northern Advocate 16 January 1923. “Mr Busby, bought several blocks of land (pre 1840) had to be compensated with £70,000 by the British Government. (post 1840) Among some blocks acquired was the best part of Ngunguru (on the eastern coast between Bay of Islands and Whangarei Heads). Here they built a good house of Kauri Timber. This house was occupied by Captain Thomas Stewart who may be reckoned as the first bona fide settler in Ngunguru. Captain Stewart for a long period in his own vessel, traded between Sydney and the Bay of Islands, but saw that the land was good and settled down at Kopipi, Ngunguru River and set to work clearing land. He raised some splendid Devon Cattle, such bullocks as are seen today, having backs like tables! There he had delightful surroundings, a good library, entertained his friends, bred his Devons and lived for a quarter of century. He expired on the 10th October 1867 age 49″. As there is a strong connection between James Busby and Capt. Stewart it could be the same ancestral Devon cattle attributed to James Busby.
Bullock teams played a vital role in the timber industry that was an important part of the early development of Northland. Although Shorthorn were the dominant breed and their steers made up the majority of bullock teams, Devons were a popular choice for leaders because of their intelligence and response to commands from the drivers. As well as hauling heavy Kauri logs from the bush to the mills, they were used for the development of farm land and supplied milk and beef to the early pioneers.
Milestone Dates of New Zealand Red Devon Cattle
and Early Press Records from Papers Past
April 23rd 1842: Nelson Examiner and NZ Chronicle Volume 1 P25. For Sale, by Private Contract, the whole of, the LIVE STOCK per S.S.Hope consisting of 58 cows. The cow’s, are all in calve to pure Durham and Devon bulls, imported from England at a very great cost. These cattle have all been selected from the stock of W.C. Wentworth, Esq., who as a breeder, is known to spare no expense in improving his herd. (W.C. Wentworth is known as the first bona fide European born on Australian territory-Norfolk Island)
May 15th 1844: New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator; P25, Volume V, Issue 344 P1. The Imported pure North Devon Bull Lillipont, bred at Torrongton in Devonshire, will stand at Newry, River Hutt, (Hutt Valley, Wellington) this season. The charge for cows sent to him will be five Guineas.
21 Feb 1855: Mr William Dyson of Blackbull, Wakapuaka, Nelson, (South Island) had for sale
A very superior Red Devon Bull. Early livestock in the Nelson area, were imported from Australia (Nelson History)
13 July 1857: S.S. Copenhagen anchored at Hobson Bay. Livestock include prize Durham and Devon Cattle. The accommodation for the cattle was first rate and the condition in which they arrived proved that every attention and care was paid to them during the voyage.
1866: Auckland Annual Show at Otahuhu had classes for Devon bulls, cows and heifers.
1866: Otahuhu Saleyards (Auckland): For Sale, a first class superior bred Devon bull about 3 years old. In the History of the Albertlanders (Matakohe-Wellsford area; mid Northland.) written in 1926. ‘E & T Coates occupation commenced in 1868. First with sheep but with a wild dog problems made them turn to beef. The Coates (Ruatuna) were pioneers of an enlighten type. Among the first Hereford Breeders in NZ, they introduced the Devon Cattle into the North, they afterwards passed them onto the brothers G & R Smith (neighbours) who added to them later and produced splendid cattle. In cattle the Oven Bros co-operated with the Smiths in the purchase and development of the Ruatuna herd.
1878: There were Devon Classes in the Canterbury A & P Show (South Island)
1878: Pure bred Devon cows from the Tocal Herd (Australia) was purchased by the firm of McLean & Co Waikato; The finest lot of pure-bred Devons which have as yet left this port, were dispatched by the ‘Hero’ on Wednesday for Auckland. They came from the celebrated Tocal herd and were selected by Mr T. Payne who purchased for the firm of McLean & Co; of Waikato. This shipment of hardy Reds consisted of 21 head of young females, everyone fitted for a show-ground as a pure representative of the Devon breed and one two year old bull. The heifers are by the well known grand bulls Duke of Flitton 4th and Emigrant, both imported bulls from England. The male of the lot is Baronet, a fine specimen of the Devon breed. We are informed that Messrs McLean & Co., intend this interesting collection to be the foundation of a Devon herd.
1878: Auckland A & P November Grand Show: McLean & Co Devon Bull gained 1st prize. The fame of their cattle has already spread through the length and breadth of the colonies. They have the Sydney Show Champion in their herd and the Champion Cow ‘Anemone’. [This Company imported other breeds as well.]
1880: McLean & Co herd of Devons at Pah Farm Cambridge inspected and declared healthy after a sickness scare thought to be Pleuro. Post mortem on one found inflamed Intestines and liver.
1882: Devons the 1st bull offered was ‘Star’ a 2yr, got by an imported bull. Mr McLean undertook to furnish his pedigree and added that 50gns had been offered for him last year as a yearling. Mr James Robertson purchased him for 25gns. Sir Mathew Lopks sold Red 31 calved 0/9/89. Got by Baronet (Imp); dam, Julia 4th by Duke of Devon. Major Wimberly the purchaser for 13gns
1883: Devon bull auction at Ohaupo Yards (Waikato). J.S. Buckland
1883: Linwood, (South Island). Devon Bull for sale
1885: Auckland Remuera Sale Yards. Agents, Alfred Buckland; 10 Devon heifers and yearling Devon bull for sale
1886: NZ Herd Book-Pedigree Devons-5 bulls, 4 cows
1888: Canterbury (South Island) Cattle Markets- a line of neat little Devon Heifers sold from £5/10s to £6/12s/6d
1890: Pure bred Devon calves at Hawera sale(Taranaki) bought for 1 guinea (21 shillings) each
c1890: Strong evidence that Walter Mountain of Purerua, born 1861, was well established in Devon Cattle.
Oral history records that when he returned from Queensland as their Heavyweight Boxing Champion, he brought two Devon bulls with him as he knew that his home Devon stock were getting inbred. He had the bulls swam ashore onto an Island in the Bay of Islands to quarantine them for some time
1895: Rough voyage for cattle aboard the “Southern Cross”. Durhams died, Herefords survived and Devons did well.
1905: Devons being killed at Gore Abattoirs (Southland), Finest flavour, choicest cuts. 3yr heifers bred by Mr Carswell of Pine Bush Southland Av. 675lb dressed
1908: Early pedigree certificates show cattle bred by the Glen Moan Stud, New South Wales, Australia were sold to Mr G. Smith (Whakatu Stud, Matakohe) and were recorded in Volume 10 of the NZ Herd Book for Other Breeds. The females were Glen Moan Lass, Queen and Bird and a bull Glen Moan Chief
1909: Auckland Star 16/2/1909: Matakohe. This district can boast of possessing 6 enthusiastic breeders of pedigree stock. G & R Coates – Shropshire sheep, Hereford Cattle; G & R Smith Border Leicester sheep and Devon Cattle, G. Ovens Devon cattle. Smith Bros have just imported from Australia five head of Devon Cattle, which took 1st prize in the Sydney Show and the new owners anticipate great results from their new and costly purchases.
1910: R & G Smith entered Devon Heifer Moan Queen and Bull Mrytle Boy in Auckland A & P Show
1911: The shipment of South Devon cattle for Mr J. C. N. Grigg of Longreach, Canterbury came to hand by steamer Morayshire. [Previous Red Devon history says that John Grigg of Longreach introduced Devons to the South Island at the turn of the century. [That maybe is a mistake]
1914: NZ Herd Book printed – North Devon section shows entries of Imported Highfield Cows bred by
Mr Charles Morris and owned by Mr J. Birch of Marton. Their names were China Cup, Vanity, Ladybird 4th, and Snowdrop 2nd. A bull Claudius bred by King Edward VII on the Royal farm at Windsor was also recorded by
Mr Birch. Thorsby farm is situated a few miles north of Marton (Lower North Island), is one of the finest farms in the district. It comprises 1000 acres of rich undulating land and river flats between the Rangitikei and Powera rivers and was acquired by Mr Birch in 1899. Born in England 1842, emigrated to NZ 1860, Mr Birch developed and owned the high station “Erewhon”.
1917: NZ Soldiers on convalescent in England visit Charles Morris (Highfield Hall) who says he has shipped a few Devons to Mr W. J. Birch of Thorsby, Marton.
1917: Mr Birch of Marton sent 2 Devon Bulls to the Sydney Royal Show
1921: census. 23 Pure bred Devons in NZ
1930: Northern Wairoa Show. R & G .Smith of Matakohe entered 28 head of Devon & Hereford cattle. Included were 2 Devon Steers each of which would tip the beam of 10cwt. looking down on them they appeared almost as square at the shoulders as at the rump.
1935: Walter Hansen purchased his first Devon bull from Walter Mountain and later cows from Cecil Dodds whose herd was based on the original Busby imports
1936: H. Mountain of Waimate North, imported two bulls from Tasmania on board the “Wanganella”. Roseville Leader; b.Oct 1934: and Nanhington No.44; son of Crazeloman Perfection. Second time Mr Mountain has imported Devons from Tasmania By 1936 there were only two recorded Devon Herds in New Zealand. Mountain Estate of Waimate North (Bay of Islands) and G & R Smith of Matakohe.
1940: While no definite date has been located, it was about this time that the Dodds herd was formed by the purchase of the G & R Smith cattle, many of whom, were reputed to descend from the Busby 1838 imports via Coates, and possible their Australian imports as well.
The Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s may have been the catalyst of the demise of Red Devon cattle outside of Northland. With little income to purchase breeding stock, many valuable breeding females may have finished up in the meat market. But the reason for their decline in numbers in relation to other breeds seems to be attributed to the vast numbers of Angus and Hereford that were imported to establish a beef industry in the early days.
Before the establishment of the New Zealand Devon Cattle Breeders Association in 1972, early noted breeders were the likes northern farmers W. Mountain, W. & K. Hansen, B. Dreadon, W. Kearney, B. Taylor, Foster, Beazley family, Mrs F. Biddle
Modern Day Red Devons
Walter Mountain’s Te Puna and G & R Smith’s Northland cattle appear to be ancestors of many of the foundation cows of today’s herd. Mr Cecil Dodds acquired the Smith herd c1940 and when he passed away in 1967 a number of breeders bought cows, but of note were the cattle that formed the base stock for the Foster herd at Maungaturoto, and the 10 purchased by Mr. Jock McKay from Feilding, to enhance the Oldfield Stud he had started with two cows from the Holmslee Stud in 1962. Many of the Oldfield cows when sold in c1982 went onto become the foundation females of Ian Lipscombe Matahaia Stud where he developed very good cow families such as Tammy, Helen, Joy, Angela, Della, Nicola and Apricot. Joan Powers (Isca) developed good families from Tammy, Della and Angela. Colin Nash (Woodlands) developed good families from Helen, Angela, Apricot and Nicola. Arthur Beazley (Tapuwae) raised a show winning cow from the Joy family. Bert Dreadon in 1961 purchase a yearling Devon bull from Cecil Dodds to mate over his Milking Shorthorns whose descendants were to become son David’s, commercial Devon Herd. To start up their Pencarrow stud the Dreadon’s purchased two Holmslee bred cows.
1954; Mr G. Holmes of Rakaia, Canterbury, South Island imported Rosaville Cherry 6th and Rosavale Buttercup 5th from Tasmania to found the Holmslee Stud. Mr M. Turton of Ashburton imported Whisloca Apricot 45th and Whisloca Kind Regards 3rd Devons from Mr H. Trethewie, Tasmania 1955; The Holmslee herd was strengthened with the arrival of females from the Willow Vale and Marchington studs, Tasmania. Also arriving at Holmslee, was the champion English bull Trescowe Jason. In later years, Mr Holmes imported the sires Lincoln Park David and Whisloca Passport 120th from Australia to establish a long line of excellent cattle.
1958; Mr H. Squires of Cannington, Timaru, moved into Red Devons, importing the Show Champion Whisloca Midas 10th and the basis of the well known Squireleigh stud came into being.
1969; Mr G. Holmes imported the bull Whisloca Passport 120th
1972; The introduction of exotics to New Zealand provided the impetus for the Devons to re-establish themselves. This move was led by Mr and Mrs Darcy Gilberd of Whangarei, who worked with tremendous vigour and were largely responsible for resurgence of interest in the Devon in New Zealand. A total of seven North Island breeders held an inaugural Meeting in a caravan on June 15th 1972 at the National Field days at Hamilton. The first Devon Association, was formed with a motion moved by Jock McKay and seconded by Merv Rusk.
- To form a body of Devon Breeders for the benefit of all concerned
- To make best possible use of the Devon breed of cattle
- To promote the development of the breed on a sound genetic basis
- To publicise the breed and promote sales
- To record the breeding and good genetic qualities and regulate any faults
The first dinner was served by Mrs Alice Gilberd, fish and chips served on newspaper.
The committee consisted of:
President – Jock McKay,
Vice President – Merv Rusk,
Secretary – Darcy Gilberd,
Treasurer – Neville Rae.
Others present were; David Holmes, Keith Hansen, Alice Gilberd and Darcy Gilberd Jnr.
The Secretary reported on talks held with Dr Clive Dalton, Head Geneticist at Ruakura Research Station who showed terrific interest and gave considerable advice and support. Later Mr Graham Holmes was invited to be Patron and Mr Walter Alison became Head Classifier.
The first Devon Annual was printed in 1973 and “beef per hectare” became an important promotional call. There was an urgent need for a classification system as bad faults were being seen in the show ring. Dr Dalton obtained permission for the Devon Association to use the Ankony Scientific Research Station’s system of classification, as it was the most progressive and suitable for our needs and embraced every phase of beef production.
1972; Ramsey Farms of Taupo imported 21 heifers from the Monavale Stud, Tasmania, with names Dainty, Brassy, Redgirl, Flirt, Jenny, Plum and Sunset for the Pine View Stud. These female lines feature strongly in today’s herd.
1973; Semen from the top English bull Potheridge Masterpiece, was selectively used by Darcy Gilberd and A. F. Dean in Northland and had great influence on NZ Devons. A son, Dean Peace was a cornerstone sire in the notable Rotokawa stud. Other top U.K Sires used on AB in the 1970s were Nynehead Candidate and Bovey Lonely
1974; Ban Ban and Jingaree Devons were imported from Australia by Kevin Rusk for the Bangaree Stud. Amongst these was Ban Ban Carnation, Ban Ban Lupin, Jingaree Apricot 5th and Jingaree Jipsylass 4th whose descendants feature strongly in A. Beazley Tapuwae Stud.
1976; Mrs J. Brooker imported 2 bulls from Australia; Tondara Stocklad 19th and Tondra Servant 53rd
1978; Hedley Squires imported the English Royal Show Champion, Essington Buccaneer and his son John used him heavily on the Inwardleigh stud
1979: The Rotokawa Stud established; owned by Mrs M. J. Liburn and managed by Mr Ken McDowell, were to acquire many leading females from the Holmslee herd.
1980; Fairington Orange 43rd imported from England by Mr. W. Kearney and Mr. A. Beazley (Tapuwae)
1981; Semen of the English bull Fairington Baron 3rd imported by K. Rusk (Bangaree) from Australia.
1981; Walter Alison Imported Candlewood Ringmaster 23rd, Candlewood Ringmaster 30th, Woodilee Drover and the cow Woodilee Elma from Australia
1982; D. Gilberd imported the English polled sire Bourton Marquis. Semen sales of other English polled bulls Minety Dollies Objective and Dingle Objective soon after, influenced the spread of polled Devons. The polling of these bulls came from a show winning Red Angus bull called Red Eagle.
1983; Woodilee Ely, polled, from South Australia was imported John Squires.
1991; Seaton Park 55, polled, from South Australia imported by Walter Alison (Red Oaks Devons) Whangarei. Later sold to Tuppy Jones (Thelmara Stud) as an aged bull.
1994; Some semen from the English bull Thorndale Baron 4th was used
2001; Semen from Tilbrook Sunset(P) was bought in by Colin Nash and some on-sold to other breeders. Many of today’s polled Red Devons feature Tilbrook Sunset
2004; Brightly Diamond and Cutcombe Jaunty semen imported from England.
2010; Rotokawa herd sold to USA breeders
2011; New Zealand Red Devon Cattle Breeders Association (NZRDCBA) changes from Beefplan to Breedplan and EBV’s come into use.
Supplied by Eileen Porter to the 2006 AGM of the NZRDCBA
Transcribed by Wayne Aspin from a hand written letter By Keith Hansen,
The Hansen Family’s Involvement with Devon Cattle in New Zealand
James Busby of Waitangi brought the first recorded herd of Devon cattle to NZ. Sixteen cows and two bulls in 1838.
Thomas Hansen the first non-missionary settler in NZ, landed at Te Puna 1814. His son Edward Hansen, born 1823, started a butchery and ship’s provender business at Waitangi next to the Busby property in early 1850’s. His corned Beef & Bacon was guaranteed to last the round trip to England and back on a sailing ship. He supplied some navy ships, very likely with beef from Busby’s farm.
Thomas Hansen’s granddaughter, Hannah Elizabeth Clapham married George Pin Sydey Mountain in 1861. They took over the Hansen land at Purerua and adjoining land and bought Busby’s Devon cattle.
George Mountain’s sons Walter Clapham, Syd and Burt farmed Devon cattle at Purerua, Waimate North and Okaihau. Walter also farmed the Cavalli Islands. He spent some time in Australia and imported some Devon cattle from there. He quarantines them on one offshore island for a year.
My Grandfather Walter Hansen senior used a Devon bull at Tapuhi near Hukerenui early 1900. This bull was in W. Hedley’s bullock team before 1914.
My father Walter Hansen junior worked a team of bullocks until 1939. The leader of his first team was a Devon bullock bred by Mountains. This bullock was used by Mabet & Clements when they shifted the Towai Hotel and the Towai School.
Dad bought several Devon bulls and a few cows from Burt and Sid Mountain at Ohaiwai Sales in 1930. I later bought a bull and six in calf heifers from Cecil Dodds at Maungaturoto. Then I got two heifers and a bull from Graham Holmes (1967) at Rakaia and two heifers from H. Squires at Timaru. I bought the first bull from the Devons Ramsey bros brought from Tasmania, Pine View Midas. Bill Kearney bought Devon cattle with Taylors farm at Peria.
I think this family of Taylors are descended from Amy Hansen. Her granddaughter married E. B. Taylor and later lived at Awanui and are cousins to the Mountain family.
Walter P.S. Mountain drove 300 Devon steers from Purerua to Reatahi freezing works single handed without a dog in 1912. He only lost 2 head in a gumfield swamp between Hukerenui and Towai. He later started his own meat canning works at Teti. This was also used for tinning fish.
Some useful information and history of Devon Cattle in NZ from
[signed] K W Hansen
P.S. My stud name was Rimu, sold 1974.
Rimu Admiral was the bull Darcy Gilberd lent to the Herd Improvement for dairy beef weight gain trials.
1000 calves 2 vet assisted.
Te Puna was the stud name Mountain’s used.
A large number of Devon steers went into the bullock teams working the Kauri bush around Puhi Puhi and Pukati
Transcribed by Wayne Aspin from a hand written letter by Eileen Porter dated 20/9/2005
The First Importations of Devon Cattle to New Zealand
Unable to find any record of James Busby importing Devon cattle to the Bay of Islands I rang Walter Mountain now aged 84 and inquired how his father Walter Mountain obtained his Devons? A prompt reply was “He imported them from Queensland along with Marion sheep, good dogs, and an Aboriginal runner! He was definitely the first one!!”
Walter senior was born in 1861 and as a young man went to the Australian Goldfields to make his fortune – decided “that it was a mugs game” and turned to boxing and ended up as Champion Heavyweight Boxer of Queensland.
Returning to New Zealand with his purchases he had the boat brought close into shore at Purerua Peninsula (Bay of Islands) & with dinghies all round swam the cattle ashore to his family’s property. They also had a big farm at Waimate in the Bay of Islands “a lot of country”.
He (Walter senior) was keen on them [Devons] “smaller and fairly straight in the legs and they didn’t get stuck in their properties many swamps”.
Around 1900s the Mountain family had a canning factory under the “Penguin Label” for the mullet in their bays. In the off season they killed the Devon cattle and canned the meat and exported it to England winning many medals there with his beef. Walter’s daughter has some of the English medals made into a chain bracelet.
Walter Senior married and had 5 daughters. His second marriage to Edith Mary Adams produced another 4 daughters and one “marvellous son” (who is giving me this information). Walter was born when his father was 60 years old and he died 8 years later.
The present Walter Mountain had Devons for years but couldn’t buy a bull off anyone. They used to sell bulls to beef farmers [as] they were good to handle with horses. They were getting a bit light and [so] they made the decision to cross with Herefords in later years.
Walter Hansen and his son Keith visited Mountains and purchased Devon stock and Walter Hansen had a renowned Devon team and did a lot of heavy work in the Hukerenui area with them. Later they built up the “Rimu Stud”.
Some of the Mountain Devons went to Taylors – relations – and onto Bill Kearney inland from Taipa.
It is also reported, not by Mr Mountain, that some of the first Devon Cattle went onto Smiths at Maungaturoto who had good cattle there for years.
This information was gathered by Eileen Porter, Towai, Bay of Islands by a phone call to the present Walter Mountain who she found very alert and sure of his facts. As he was only eight when his father died, he was only too happy to set our records right for the future.
[signed] Eileen Porter
More notes from Eileen; “All their transport was by boat in those days and they had the Grocery Shop and Post Office.” In the late 1980s & early 1990s our Braelands stud supplied Devon bulls back to Purerua Peninsular to the next property to Mountain’s to use over their Angus breeding herd on Mataka Station.
The Aboriginal imported runner was entered in athletic races to win money evidently profitable in those Days.
The present Walter Mountain’s great grandmother was the first white child born in New Zealand, “Hannah Leithbridge”.
Transcribed by Wayne Aspin from The New Zealand Farmer Weekly August 25th 1937
Mr G. Smith’s Matakohe Herd – A Story of Enterprise
An interesting story lies behind the establishment of the purebred North Devon herd owned by Mr G. Smith, of Matakohe. It is a tale of almost insuperable obstacles in transport, embargo restrictions etc. in the effort to keep the strain pure and of high standard.
The founding of the herd dates back over 50 years when the north was a very sparsely settled and under developed territory, with no transport facilities other than by water and bullock tracks.
The first of the Devons were imported from England and landed at the Bay of Islands by Mr Busby and consisted of one bull and 20 heifers. The herd was afterwards purchased by Mr Coates and bought to Ruatuna, the property now owned by his two sons, Messrs. G and R. Coates
A little later they again changed hands and became the property of Mr Smith, who has retained them ever since.
In 1908 Mr Smith visited the Sydney Royal Show and purchased the Reserve Champion bull, Myrtle Boy, and the champion cow, Coquette 48th , bred by Mr Hunter White, of Mudgee Farm, NSW, and also six heifers from Mr J.C. Manchees “Glen Moan” station some 500 miles further north. All these cattle have been noted prize winners, the bull, Myrtle Boy, having won almost enough ribbons to make him a cover. Mr Smith had great difficulty in persuading Mr Hunter White to sell Mrytle Boy. It was only after much argument, in which he painted vivid picture of a 100mile trip through the bush to catch a boat, a trip down the Wairoa River in dense fog, in which they ran aground, and finally a 1200 mile sea voyage to Sydney for the express purpose of buying that particular animal, that Mr White (stating that he was a sporting man himself and admired that trait in others) consented to sell. The price was the only thing not discussed and Mr Smith did not know the bull had cost him 300 guineas until he was back in New Zealand.
From one of the Glen Moan heifers, Moan Lass, and sired by Mrytle Boy was bred another great prize winner, Conqueror, who was used as the chief herd sire until, in a endeavour to further improve the quality and stamina of the herd, Highfield Dark Horse was imported. He was from the stud of Mr J.C. Morrisey, of Highfeild Hall, St. Albans, England. The late King George was a large purchaser of stock from this stud.
The Matakohe herd is of a very even—-Three lines missing in paragraph, damaged news clip.
A crossbred Devon-Shorthorn bullock was exhibited at the Auckland Show some years ago by Mr Smith, which weighed 2090lb. Just prior to this, disparaging criticism was made regarding the quality of the northern land by the then Minister of Lands. In answer to this, a placard was placed on the pen by the judge, stating, “This bullock was grown in the north, where the pasture is supposed to die out in three years. What did he live on?”
Mr Smith’s present herd sire is one imported by Mr Mountain, and is a beautiful animal, with all the characteristics of the pure North Devon strain.
The embargo against importation of livestock has proved a big handicap to Mr Smith, as it has to many other enterprising breeders. On one occasion he went to the Royal Sydney Show and purchased the second prize winner for about 300 guineas, only to find that he couldn’t ship him to NZ owing to the danger of importing a disease called worm nogules.
On approaching the director of agriculture in an endeavour to overcome this difficulty, he was told that the beast would have to be killed to ascertain whether or not he was infected. Much to the amusement of the late Rt. Hon. W.F. Massey, who was an interested listener of the debate, Mr Smith replied that he considered the Minister a bright sort of a Doctor if had to “kill the patient in order to discover the aliment”.
A splendid testimonial to the breed is a photograph Mr. Smith has of three Devon bullocks sold to W. Johnstone in 1916. Inset is a photograph of the cheque received, the amount being £100.
Mr George Smith and his brother Mr. Richard formed a partnership and acquired land at Parahi and Pikiwahine. After Dick died in 1922, George farmed these areas as Whakatu Stud of Matakohe but appears to have kept trading as G&R Smith. A tribute to George’s enterprise appears above and traces part of his Devon stud’s history. Before taking up farming the Smith family were bushmen who owned and operated a sawmill, and a 1000 acre kauri bush block called Greenhill above the Ruawai Swamp. To extract the huge kauri logs they used a Devon bullock team. The sawmill and all the cut timber were destroyed in a disastrous fire, so the Devon Bullock and their driver were contracted out to measure, brand logs and extract logs all over Northland (Ed .)
Devons Ancient History
In Britain the Devon acquired a great reputation in the 19th century. The breed went right to the top with famous victories at Smithfield. In the west of England it was undoubtedly the premier beef animal. The Devon also excelled itself during dairy trials coming in second behind the Jersey for butter fat against all breeds. It has been recorded that at Torrington May Fair as many as 2000 red Devon came under the hammer in a single day. Midway through the 19th century statistics produced by the Board of Agriculture came as a surprise to many, with Devons second only to the Shorthorn in numbers.
Early recording was due to a John Davy whose family had breed Devons from the early 1700s and he continued to seek to improve the strain in every way. In 1851 Volume 1 of Davys Devon Herd Book came into being and continues on to this day. One breeder a poet of his day composed these famous lines:
Broad in her ribs and long in her rump
A straight flat back and never a hump
Fine in her bone and silky of skin
Shes a grazier without and a butcher within.