Robert Bakewell (farmer)

Robert Bakewell (farmer)

Robert Bakewell (1725 - 1795) was a revolutionary in the field of selective breeding. He was brought up at Dishley Grange, near Loughborough in Leicestershire.

Robert Bakewell was the first to breed cattle to be used for food. Before, the main use for cattle was for pulling ploughs, but he crossed long horned heifers and a Westmoreland bull to eventually create the Dishley Longhorn. He made this possible by allowing only the best animals to breed, increasing the weight of his sheep and also greatly improving the taste of mutton. As more and more farmers followed his lead, farm animals increased dramatically in size and quality. In 1700, the average weight of a castrated bull sold for slaughter was 370 pounds (168 kg). By 1786, that weight had more than doubled to 840 pounds (381 kg). However, after his death, the Dishley Longhorn was replaced with short horn versions.

He is best known for creating a breed of sheep known as the New Leicesters, also known as the English Leicester. These were much improved on previous sheep, but were later replaced with Border Leicester crosses, which had thicker wool and could withstand the British climate better. But they were only briefly popular as they were soon overtaken by the Southdown sheep developed by Thomas Coke even though he still remains one of the 'heroes' of the Agricultural Revolution.

Robert Bakewell bred the Improved Black Cart horse, which later became the Shire horse. This horse would become valuable throughout the country side as a way to increase water income to the farm. He also improved crop management through purpose-built watering systems.

New Dishley Society

The New Dishley Society has been created to promote the memory of Robert Bakewell and of his contemporaries and students of his methods. The society aims to disseminate knowledge of his work and appreciation of his pioneering legacy in the breeding of improved farm livestock and better crop management. It supports research into the revolutionary agricultural techniques of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and into the men who developed these techniques.

External links

* [http://www.le.ac.uk/elh/newdishley/ The New Dishley Society]


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