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History of the Dexter Breed

Dexter and Kerry cattle originated from the same ancestral stock. Through the early nineteenth century both Kerry and Dexter cattle were produced from the same herds, and were registered in the same herd book.


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The taller, heavier animals were registered as Kerry, while the shorter stockier animals were registered as Dexter. Blood-typing has established that the two breeds are now genetically distinct. Some historians assert that Dexters evolved as an improved Devon/Kerry Cross, but there is an equally strong case that the Dexter is a direct descendant of the original Celtic Cattle with genetic markers that date back to the Bronze Age.

Both breeds of cattle descends from the ancient, fine-boned, black Celtic cattle that occupied this area at the time of Caesar’s invasion of Britain.

Early writers on livestock history in the United Kingdom tell of the Kerry/Dexter and regular Irish exports in the 18th century. These little cattle were kept largely in England by the gentry as "Park" cattle on the show estates of that era. Nevertheless, in Ireland the Dexter animal was not for the gentry but the small landholder to milk and eat, or sell.

Japanese gardeners, brought to Britain to tend the new garden estates in the 18th and 19th century, are reputed to have taken Dexters back to Japan in the late 1800's. A line of Dexters was purchased and travelled on sailing ships as a source of fresh milk and meat. Some of these intermingled with Japanese cattle and the Wagyu strain evolved. There are tales of Dexters on the coastline of Africa in the 18th Century. There is some myth and romance in the Dexter legend too.

 An Irish legend says that Kerrie's, who grazed on the coast's seaweed, mated with sea lions to produce the original Dexters.  Hmmm....doesn't sound very plausible to me, but the links to wagyu genetics are interesting, and I can see similarities in facial structure between some of my larger dexter cows and the wagyu girls I have.

Yes- cows do have distinct faces and personalities and, just like people, are very different from each other in any given group. 

For more information on Dexter Cattle Dexter Cattle Australia, Inc