Jersey cattle

Jersey cattle

A Jersey cow in the western United States
Country of origin Jersey
Weight Bull: 540–820 kilograms (1,200–1,800 lb)
  Cow: 400–500 kilograms (880–1,100 lb)
Coat Fawn
Bos (primigenius) taurus

Jersey cattle, or Jerseys, (also with the corresponding lower-case spellings), are a breed of small dairy cattle. Originally bred in the Channel Island of Jersey, the breed is popular for the high butterfat content of its milk and the lower maintenance costs attending its lower bodyweight, as well as its genial disposition. Possibly the best known[citation needed] example of the breed outside the United Kingdom is Elsie the Cow, the famous mascot of Borden, Inc., in the United States. Her face is portrayed on cans of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, cheeses, fresh and shelf-stable milk.



The Jersey cow is quite small, ranging from only 400–500 kilograms (880–1,100 lb). The main factor contributing to the popularity of the breed has been their greater economy of production, due to:

  • The ability to carry a larger number of effective milking cows per unit area due to lower body weight, hence lower maintenance requirements, and superior grazing ability.
  • Calving ease and a relatively lower rate of dystocia, leading to their popularity in crossbreeding with other dairy and even beef breeds to reduce calving related injuries.
  • High fertility
  • High butterfat conditions, 6% butterfat and 4% protein, and the ability to thrive on locally produced food.[1] Bulls are also small, ranging from 540 to 820 kg (1200 to 1800 pounds), and are notoriously aggressive.

Castrated males can be trained into fine oxen which, due to their small size and gentle nature make them popular with young teamsters. Jersey oxen are not as strong as larger breeds however and are generally out of favor among competitive teamsters.

Due to the small size, docile and inquisitive character and attractive features of the Jersey cow, small herds were imported into England by aristocratic landowners as adornment for aestheticly landscaped parks.

Jerseys are adaptable to hot climates and are bred in the hottest parts of Brazil.

Jerseys come in all shades of brown, from light tan to almost black. They are frequently fawn in color. All purebred Jerseys have a lighter band around their muzzle, a dark switch (long hair on the end of the tail), and black hooves, although in recent years color regulations have been relaxed to allow a broadening of the gene pool.

They are calm and docile animals, but tend to be a bit more nervous than other dairy cow breeds. They are also highly recommended cows for first time owners and marginal pasture.

Unfortunately, they have a greater tendency towards post-parturient hypocalcaemia (or "milk fever") in dams and frail calves that require more attentive management in cold weather than other dairy breeds due to their smaller body mass and greater relative surface area.

History of the breed

Jersey cattle being judged at a show in Jersey, home of the breed

As its name implies, the Jersey was bred on the British Channel Island of Jersey. It apparently descended from cattle stock brought over from the nearby Norman mainland, and was first recorded as a separate breed around 1700.

Frank Falle has speculated[2] (on the basis of DNA evidence) that the oldest settlers in Jersey were Danish vikings who had been to Nantes with Hatain, where it is recorded that tribute was given by the King of France to Hatain of 500 cattle to leave that area, whereupon they settled in the Normandy area. The marked resemblance between Jersey cattle and the Nantaise cow would seem to bear this out.[3]

The breed was isolated from outside influence for over two hundred years, from 1789 to 2008.

Before 1789 cows would be given as dowry for inter-island marriages between Jersey and Guernsey.[4] This was, however, not widespread.

In 1789, imports of foreign cattle into Jersey were forbidden by law to maintain the purity of the breed, although exports of cattle and semen have been an important economic resource for the island. The restriction on the import of cattle was initially introduced in 1789 to prevent a collapse in the export price. The United Kingdom levied no import duty on cattle imported from Jersey. Cattle were being shipped from France to Jersey and then being shipped onward to England to circumvent the tariff on French cattle. The increase in the supply of cattle, sometimes of inferior quality, was bringing the price down and damaging the reputation of Jersey cattle. The import ban stabilised the price and enabled a more scientifically controlled programme of breeding to be undertaken.

Jerseys are well known as curious and gentle cattle

Sir John Le Couteur studied selective breeding and became a Fellow of the Royal Society - his work led to the establishment of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society in 1833. At that time, the breed displayed greater variation than it does today with white, dark brown and mulberry beasts. However, since the honey-brown cows sold best the breed was developed accordingly. In 1860 1,138 cows were exported via England, the average price being £16 per head. By 1910 over a thousand head were exported annually to the United States alone. It is now the fastest growing dairy breed in the world.

On 1866, at the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society, H.G. Shepard notes in his history[5] that "it was resolved - on the motion of Col. Le Couteur, that the Hon. Secretary be hereby invited to open and to carry on a "herd book" in which the pedigree of bulls, cows and heifers shall be entered for reference to all the members of the Society.". In 1869 for the first time prizes were awarded at the Society's Shows for Herd Book Stock Cattle.

The States of Jersey took a census of stock in 1866, and Jersey then supported 12,037 head of cattle, of which 611 were bulls, and no fewer than 6,322 pigs and 517 sheep. This was before the motor age and 3,227 horses were kept, Saint Helier being responsible for 888.

In July 2008, the States of Jersey took the historic step of ending the ban on imports, and allowing the import of bull semen from any breed of cattle, although only semen that is genetically pure will enable the resultant progeny to be entered in the Jersey Herd Book. An annual Jersey cattle show is held in Jersey, by The West Show Association.[6]

In February, 2010, it was revealed that semen from a non-pure breed Jersey bull had been imported into the island despite strict laws and checks, and 100 cows have been impregnated with the semen. Their offspring will not be recorded in the Jersey herd book.[7]

Famous Jersey cows

  • Brown Bessie, the famous champion butter cow of the Chicago World's Fair dairy test, averaged over 18 kg (40 pounds) of milk a day for five months, and made 1.3 kg (3 pounds) of butter a day several times.[8]
  • Hurionia Centurion Veronica 20J is a well known show cow of the Jersey breed. In 2003 she was sold for $85,000 at public auction. She was the 2006 World Dairy Expo Supreme Champion. She has also been named the All-American Grand Champion Jersey.
  • Mainstream Barkley Jubilee holds the top two records for milk production for a Jersey cow. She produced 49,250 lbs of milk after calving at 3 years and 6 months of age, and 55,590 lbs after calving at 4 years and 8 months old.[9]
  • Lily Flagg, champion butterfat and milk producer of 1892. She produced a record 1047 pounds, 3/4 ounces of butter as well as 11,339 pounds of milk.[10] Her owner threw a locally famous high-class party in her honor, going so far as to paint his house "butter yellow" for the occasion.[11]

Jersey cows in India

Under British rule Jerseys were transported to India and cross bred with Asian breeds to improve the quality of milk produced by domestic breeds - the practice of importing pure bred Jerseys for cross-breeding continues to this day [12] In the north of India, particularly in the Himalaya, semi-wild cows that strongly resemble their Channel Island sires can be found grazing in the mountain pastures.[13]

See also

  • Jersey
  • List of cattle breeds


  1. ^ Rex Paterson in Jersey Cattle, ed. Boston, 1954, pp81-95
  2. ^ The Jersey Cow
  3. ^ Photograph of Nantaise oxen
  4. ^ Jersey Cattle, Eric James Boston. 1954.
  5. ^ One Hundred Years of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society 1833-1933. Compiled from the Society's Records, by H.G. Shepard, Secretary
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ original research
  • Balleine's History of Jersey, Marguerite Syvret and Joan Stevens (1998) ISBN 1-86077-065-7
  • Butterfat in Relation to the Jersey Breed, Boston, E.J. and H.L. Webb, WJCB, 1954.
  • A Short History on the Origins of Jersey Cattle., Boston Eric, WJCB 1965

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Jersey cattle — Alderney Al der*ney, n. One of a breed of cattle raised in Alderney, one of the Channel Islands. Alderneys are of a dun or tawny color and are often called {Jersey cattle}. See {Jersey}, 3. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Jersey pound — Jersey pound …   Wikipedia

  • Jersey (disambiguation) — Jersey is an island in the English Channel. Jersey also may refer to: Other places: New Jersey, U.S. state Jersey, Georgia, U.S. town Jersey, Arkansas, U.S. unincorporated community Common nouns: Jersey (clothing) Jersey (fabric) Jersey cattle… …   Wikipedia

  • jersey — jerseyed, adj. /jerr zee/, n., pl. jerseys. 1. a close fitting, knitted sweater or shirt. 2. a plain knit, machine made fabric of wool, silk, nylon, rayon, etc., characteristically soft and elastic, used for garments. 3. (cap.) one of a breed of… …   Universalium

  • Jersey — Jerseyan, n., adj. Jerseyite, n. /jerr zee/, n. 1. a British island in the English Channel: the largest of the Channel Islands. 79,342; 44 sq. mi. (116 sq. km). Cap.: St. Helier. 2. Informal. New Jersey. * * * Jersey Introduction Jersey… …   Universalium

  • Jersey's population — Contents 1 Jersey’s population – a history 1.1 Introduction 1.2 Long term trends 1.3 Net immigration and natural increase …   Wikipedia

  • Jersey — For other uses, see Jersey (disambiguation). Bailiwick of Jersey Bailliage de Jersey …   Wikipedia

  • Jersey bibliography — This is a bibliography of significant sources for Jersey, Channel Islands. The books listed either are about Jersey history or reference the same. General *Balleine s History of Jersey, Marguerite Syvret and Joan Stevens (1998) ISBN 1 86077 065 7 …   Wikipedia

  • Jersey Village, Texas — City of Jersey Village   City   Entrance to Jersey Village …   Wikipedia

  • JERSEY —    (55), the largest and richest of the Channel Islands, lies 15 m. off the French coast, 100 m. S. of Portland Bill, is oblong in shape, with great bays in the coast, and slopes from the N. to the SW.; the soil is devoted chiefly to pasture and… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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