The Devon Cattle Breeders’ Society is celebrating an incredible 170 years of continual publication of the Davy’s Devon Herd Book.

This modest red tome comes out every spring and is a record all Devon cattle registered in the previous year.

The first publication came out in 1851 and was the work of Lt. Col. John Tanner Davey of South Molton in which he recorded 132 bulls and 483 females.

It is thought that the need to record all known Devons came about as the breed was is decline, as the country had needed to feed the military through Napoleonic wars.

Meat was in short supply so prices were inflated and there was a danger of some of the best blood line being lost.

Many of the cattle in this first Herd Book were from Francis Quartly of Great Champson, Molland, who the Society owes a great debt.

Francis Quartly took over a herd of Devons from his father, James, in 1793 and, like all farmers, started to improve his cattle.

As demand for beef was increasing because of the wars in France, Francis resisted the high prices being offered to him, and even out bidded the butchers at markets, to buy cattle from some of the old bloodlines in the area.

In doing so, he saved the breed.

Red Ruby Devons are still being bred at Great Champson by the Dart family who took on the farm in 1947.

Other notable herds who have filled the pages of this Herd Book over the years are the Whitefield herd, at present being bred by Malcolm and daughter Becky Hurd of Wiveliscombe with their herd first seen in the 1903 edition and John and Sue May of Crediton, who are celebrating the centenary of the establishment of the Priorton herd this year.

Todays Davy’s Herd Book is seen as an important annual reference book. It doesn't just record all cattle bred but also lists members and herd prefix, present council members and past presidents, results from society competitions and Devon classes at shows and, most importantly, the society’s standards of excellence.

This is an overview that gives both the breed characteristics and key aspects of confirmation of this tremendous bullock and something for members to refer to when improving their herd, just like Francis Quartly strived to do all those years ago.