Irish Dexter History & Standard

The American Kerry and Dexter Cattle Club was organized in 1911 with Mr. G. M. Carnochan as the first president.  The American Kerry and Dexter Cattle Club published it’s first Herd Book in 1920.  There were 63 Dexter bulls and 260 Dexter cows in this volume.  This publication also had the breed history and standard published in it.  Our goal is to produce the triple purpose type of cattle described in this 1920 standard described below.  Below is part of the herd book regarding the Dexter cattle’s origins, history and standards.  We have added some historical pictures from this time period for reference.  There is a link at the bottom to the full publication.

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American Dexter Cattle Club History & Standards (p.22)

The Dexter breed of cattle is an offshoot from the Kerry and, while classed with the Kerry in the first edition of this book, is properly a separate and distinct breed. The offspring from a Kerry and Dexter cross is regarded by each Kerry and Dexter herdbook association as a true crossbred and ineligible for registration.

Gort_Hero_3dTHE DEXTER.

The native home of the Dexter is in the southern part of Ireland and in the same region as that of the Kerry.

The origin of the Dexter is quite obscure. The common assumption has been that this breed is a cross between the Kerry and some other breed, perhaps the Devon. The opinion expressed by Professor James Wilson is that this is a short-legged offshoot from the Kerry, due to crossing with the Devon. It has also been repeatedly claimed that a “Mr. Dexter,” who at one time was agent of Lord Hawarden, is responsible for this Irish breed, which for some time was known as the Dexter-Kerry, but which now is classed by organizations promoting these cattle in Great Britain and America as a distinct and separate breed from the Kerry.

The introduction of the Dexter to America probably occurred long ago, when no discrimination was made between Kerry and Dexter in importations. Perhaps two hundred Dexters were imported to the United States between 1910 and 1915.  A large percentage of which were brought over by Elmendorf Farm of Kentucky, Howard Gould of New York, and James J. Hill of Minnesota, none of whom are now maintaining herds of these cattle.

Black_ChildThe characteristics of the Dexter.  In Great Britain the Dexter is regarded as a diminutive dual-purpose breed, although in the United States the beef side is given scant consideration. The essential characteristics are found in the head, short legs, small size, and color. The head is old-fashioned in a degree, tending towards plainness and crowned with more or less black-tipped, upright horns. The head of the bull is burly and short and the horns often extend directly out to each side and then make a wide curve forward and upward, with considerable space between the tips. The neck is moderately short and muscular, the withers show a dual-purpose thickness, the back is unusually strongly supported, the depth of body and digestive capacity is comparatively great, the tail head is often prominent, the hind quarters suggest the dual-purpose type (more especially with the bull), the legs are very short, and the udder on mature cows frequently indicates great capacity for animals of such small size.

The color of the Dexter is very generally a solid black, although pure reds are also recognized and are not uncommon. The Irish regard either color as of equal merit. White marks are permissible on the udder and on the belly up to the navel, though not outside of the flanks. The brush of the tail may also contain more or less white. No white markings are favored on the bull, although a slight amount on the scrotum or sheath will not disqualify. The horns are usually white with black tips, while the hoofs and nose may be either white or dark as the animal is red or black.

Harley_Coy_1655The size of the Dexter places it among the smallest of British breeds. In mature form the standard weights are 900 pounds as a maximum for the bull and 800 for the cow when in breeding condition. Some very beautiful specimens of cows that scarcely weigh over 500 pounds are seen at British shows. One of the noted bulls of the breed- — La Mancha Union Jack — stood only about 38 inches high and probably weighed less than 500 pounds. In view of the fact that the Dexter has largely been sought on account of its diminutive size the tendency among breeders has been to emphasize that feature. Where breeding is conducted under conditions of plenty there is a tendency towards increase in size.

The hardy character of the Dexter is one of its outstanding features. In its native home, like the Kerry, it lives largely in the open, under rather rigorous conditions, and tubercular and other diseases due to close housing are quite uncommon.

The crossbred Dexter, especially with beef stock, meets with much favor in the British market. The use of Aberdeen-Angus or Shorthorn bulls on Dexter cows has produced some very beautiful small carcasses of beef. The author has seen some of these crosses in Ireland which, although small, represented high-class beef animals, indicating very superior killing quality. So highly is this kind of cross-breeding; regarded in England that special classes for these small carcasses are provided at the Smithfield Club Fat Stock Show.

Hempstead_House_CowsThe Dexter as a milk producer has considerable merit. There are many records for these little cows, of 4000 to 6000 pounds of milk produced within a year and this on just ordinary care. In Ireland, however, official testing of Dexter cows has only just begun. During the years 1916 and 1917 twenty-four cows were under test as supervised by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland, covering periods of lactation ranging from thirty-three to forty-five weeks. The smallest annual yield was 4555 pounds during a period of thirty-six weeks, testing an average of 4.1 per cent fat, while the largest yield was 8124 pounds during forty-five weeks, testing 3.7 per cent fat. The Castlegould herd of Howard Gould in New York State produced a number of excellent records, one cow — Slane Clara — having a record of 9046 pounds, testing 4.26 per cent fat. Dexter milk averages about 4 per cent fat.

The prices paid for Dexter cattle are comparatively small. As the breed is quite limited in number the demand is also limited. These cattle may be bought in Ireland for approximately $150 a head, with a fair selection at this price, although show animals naturally command a higher figure. While Americans have imported several hundred Dexters, as a rule the prices paid have been modest. In a pamphlet on these cattle published by the Kerry and Dexter Cattle Society of Ireland in 1918 it is stated that the prices vary from $125 to $350, according to age and quality.

The distribution of the Dexter extends over Ireland, with a few select herds in England. The 1918 volume of the English Kerry and Dexter herdbook records thirty-one herds in England. Dexter cattle have been exported to South Africa, Australia, and other British colonies. A number of herds are kept in Canada. In 1919 there were Dexter herds in Vermont, New York, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

The official promotion of Dexter cattle is supervised by several associations. The Farmers’ Gazette of Dublin, Ireland, instituted a herdbook, the first volume of which appeared in 1887. Later the Royal Dublin Society took over this work and since 1890 has published the records. The English Kerry and Dexter Cattle Society was founded in 1892 and up to 1919 has issued nineteen herdbooks, which show a total of 639 bulls and 2544 cows registered. In 1917 there was organized at Killarney, Ireland, the Kerry and Dexter Cattle Society of Ireland “to maintain the purity and promote the breeding of Kerry and Dexter cattle in Ireland.” The American Kerry and Dexter Cattle Club, organized in July, 1911, serves the purpose of registration and transfer and aims to promote the welfare of the breed. Up to 1920 the club has registered fifty-five males and two hundred and forty-six females.

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A BRITISH STANDARD FOR THE DEXTER (p.48)

Reproduced from the English Kerry and Dexter Herd Book, Volume XX, for 1919. The scale of points is from the same source.

1. The Dexter is essentially both a milk producing and a beef-making breed, and both these points should, in judging, be taken into consideration.Dinah_2017

2. Color — Bulls. Whole black or whole red (the two colors being of equal merit). A little white on organs of generation not to disqualify an animal, which answers all other essentials of this standard description. Cows. Black or red (the two colors being of equal merit). White on udder and the ex tension of white on udder slightly along inside of flank or under line of the belly, or white on tassel of tail, may be allowed on animals which answer all other essentials of this standard description.

3. Head and neck. Head short and broad, with great width between the eyes, and tapering gracefully towards muzzle, which should be large, with wide distended nostrils. Eyes bright, prominent, and of a kind and placid expression. Neck short, deep and thick, and well set into the shoulders, which, when viewed in front, should be wide, showing thickness through the heart, the breast coming well forward. Horns — These should be short and moderately thick, springing well from the head, with an inward and slightly upward curve.

A_Dexter_Cow4. Body. Shoulders of medium thickness, full and well filled in behind; hips wide; quarters thick and deep and well sprung ; flat and wide across the loins ; well ribbed up ; straight underline ; udder well forward, and broad behind, with well placed teats of moderate size; legs short (especially from knee to fetlock), strong, and well placed under body, which should be as close to the ground as possible. Tail well set on and level with back.

5. Skin. The skin should be soft and mellow, and handle well, not too thin, hair fine, plentiful and silky. Dexter bulls should not exceed 900 pounds live weight, when in breeding condition. Dexter cows should not exceed 800 pounds live weight, when in breeding condition.

 

Scale of Points of Dexter Bull.

General formation and character………………………………… 25 points

Head, horns and hair………………………………………………… 25 points

Quality and touch……………………………………………………… 20 points

Color………………………………………………………………………. 30 points

Perfect………………………………………………………………….. 100 points

Scale of Points of Dexter Cow.

Head, neck and horns………………………………………………. 15 points

Body, top line, underline, ribs, setting on of tail,

shortness of leg, etc…………………………………………………. 25 points

Bag………………………………………………………………………… 40 points

Quality and touch…………………………………………………….. 10 points

Color………………………………………………………………………. 10 points

Perfect *………………………………………………………………… 100 points

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References:

American Kerry and Dexter Cattle Herd Book Volume 1, p. 22-42, p. 48-49.

Hoard’s Dairyman Volume 53 – The Dexter and Kerry Cattle by C. S. Plumb, Columbus, Ohio, p. 884