About Red Devon Cattle

Fieldstone Farm
Fieldstone Farm

The Red Devon or “Ruby Red” is a heritage cattle breed has a long history. Early Roman records refer to the red coated cattle in the southwestern portion of England from as early as 55 B.C. There is some discussion about the cattle’s earliest ancestors with some believing that they are directly descended form a smaller breed that was a native species, Bos longifrons. They are famous for their ability to fatten well on grass, foraging for themselves on open pasture. Herefords, one of the most common beef breeds worldwide, is descended form Red Ruby stock.

The Red Devons were common as domestic animals in Britain for almost as long as there has been agriculture there. Notable efforts to improve their qualities are credited to Francis Quarterly of North Devon in England. Francis took over his father’s herd of red cattle in 1793. Instead of selling his best animals to feed British troops during England’s wars with France, he not only held back those with superior genetics, he actively sought to buy from his neighbours, and was willing to pay higher than butcher prices.


The early settlers fancied them for their triple-use. They were milkers, beef and draft animals. Their smaller frame also meant they were economical to care for. Homesteaders also valued them for their docility and the ease with which they could be managed. They had made it to Canada by the early 1800’s.


Prior to this, Devons had been brought to the New World with the Pilgrims. One bull and three heifers came across in 1623 aboard the Charity. They made the trip from Devonshire to the Plymouth colony only 131 years after Columbus reached North American shores and became the first purebred cattle to be brought to the continent.

The early settlers fancied them for their triple-use. They were milkers, beef and draft animals. Their smaller frame also meant they were economical to care for. Homesteaders also valued them for their docility and the ease with which they could be managed. They had made it to Canada by the early 1800’s.

By the late 1800’s Red Devons had been largely supplanted by other breeds, more specialized for purpose. New World Devon owners wouldn’t go away however, and in 1929, and for the next thirty years, a series of imports from British herds strengthened the existing North American bloodlines. The North American Red Devon has slowly become primarily a beef animal. Its excellent meat and ability to graze and finish on grass makes them desired for production and health reasons. Devons can now be found around the world, with Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and South Africa being home to significant herds and active Red Devon associations.