Meet endangered farm animals at Garfield Rare Breeds show

Submitted by Garfield Farm Museum
Posted5/8/2013 1:28 PM
  • Volunteer Chuck Bauer brushes Doc and Duke, two Milking Devon oxen, at the 26th Annual Rare Breeds Livestock and Poultry Show and Sale at Garfield Farm Museum in Campton Hills. This year's show is set for Sunday, May 19.

      Volunteer Chuck Bauer brushes Doc and Duke, two Milking Devon oxen, at the 26th Annual Rare Breeds Livestock and Poultry Show and Sale at Garfield Farm Museum in Campton Hills. This year's show is set for Sunday, May 19. Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer, 2012

Have a look at the type of farm animals your grandparents, or even great-grandparents, may have known when Garfield Farm Museum holds its Rare Breeds Livestock and Poultry Show and Sale.

The 27th annual event is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19 in Campton Hills.

The only show of its type held in Illinois, it looks at the loss of genetic diversity among domestic animals that humans have depended upon for food, fiber and work for hundreds of years.

For many visitors to the show, it is the first and perhaps last time in their lives they might ever see some of these highly endangered breeds.

Even aficionados of fast and powerful internal combustion engines should be able to identify with the strength, speed and performance that were once sought in the race car or tractor of its day, the horse. During the late 1700s in Vermont, Justin Morgan had a 3-year-old stallion named Figure that was reputed to be able to outwork, out-pull and outrace all comers. The horse's offspring had their sire's traits and thus the Morgan horse breed was developed.

A medium-sized horse with a blocky build that was also rugged and sound proved a hit with New Englanders as they were fit for farm work to driving carriages in town. Yet what was once popular gave way to larger draft horses from Europe.

As development of geared farm machinery called for draft animals strong like an ox but faster than an ox, Percherons, Clydesdales, Belgians, Shires, and other horses replaced the Morgan on the larger Midwestern farms. The Morgan began to be bred to be taller for the show horse competition. As a result, very few of the draftier Morgan type survived.

Using stock from Robert Lippitt Knight's 1930s herd of old type Morgans, the Lippitt Morgan variety arose. Almost extinct in the 1950s, through careful linebreeding, the Lippitt Morgan today carries over 20 percent or more of the original blood. As this breed was developed in Vermont (the Garfields' home state) and has barely survived, it might be the most appropriate breed for Garfield Farm Museum to eventually have and help preserve.

Deborah Siegrist, a Missouri trainer with the Lippitt Morgan Horse Registry, plans to bring her stallion, Mint Jacob, to demonstrate the abilities of her Lippitt in harness and saddle. Jane Myers will also give a lecture on the breed.

Many animals like the modern-day Morgan horse are being bred for their show characteristics, and this is impacting working dog breeds. Various types of dogs came about to meet a particular human need. Guarding and controlling flocks of livestock was once essential. This will best be demonstrated by Linda Franklin and her sheepherding Belgian Tervuren dogs as they work her flock of rare breed black-bellied Barbados sheep.

Some the animals expected at the show include Red Wattle piglets; milking shorthorn and Dutch Belted dairy calves; Jacob, Shetland, and Merino sheep; Shire and Morgan horses; Dales and Hackney ponies; black, white and auburn Java, Icelandic, and White Wyandotte chickens; Narragansett and Bourbon Red turkeys; Pilgrim and Buff geese; various rabbits and goats.

In today's market, very few breeds are used in modern farms. This leads to a lack of genetic diversity that could leave our food supply vulnerable if a disease strikes to which these breeds lack resistance. Breed diversity reduces the risk of this happening. That is why it is so important that heritage breeds are preserved.

There is also the matter of taste. Many of popular breeds used today grow to the desired size in a relatively short amount of time. However, they might not have the flavor to their meat or eggs that a slower-growing heritage breed may have.

Practicality aside, these animals should be saved for the same reason as any other rare animal. These barnyard critters may not be as glamorous as a panda or eagle, but are very much part of our environment and heritage.

Many of these animals were on a farm when our forefathers were. If one were to save objects from the past to preserve a glimpse of the past, then heritage livestock should be saved to help complete the picture.

Breeders are invited to exhibit their animals at the museum with a chance to meet other breeders and prospective buyers. There will be handcrafted soaps from Red Wattle lard, yarns, and various fiber products.

In addition to seeing the animals, visitors can tour the 1846 teamster inn, watch demonstrations of sheep shearing, ox driving, wool spinning, or enjoy refreshments from Inglenook Pantry.

There is a $6 donation for adults and $3 for children 12 years and younger. Garfield Farm Museum is five miles west of Geneva off Route 38 on Garfield Road. For information, call (630) 584-8485 or email; visit [URL];[URL].[/URL]