The Jersey cow is numerically the second largest breed of dairy cattle in the world. She is renowned worldwide and revered in her home in the Island of Jersey for her beauty, purity and rich, golden, high quality milk.
In 2001, the organisation that has been instrumental in protecting and enhancing the breed globally, the World Jersey Cattle Bureau, was 50 years old.
Her current and deserved status is a far cry from the 1800s when the Jersey Cow was described as having "a long head, bad horns, ewe necked, hollow backed, cat hammed and walking ill". However, by 1866 the Jersey had become an object of beauty and described as having : "a lively eye, orange ears, a round barrel, short, fine deer-like limbs, a capacious udder with large developed milk veins and a fine tail" - the pale, doe-eyed, fawn creature that we all know and love today.
The turnaround in the fortune of the Jersey began with the prohibition of imported French cattle in 1763. The laws were progressively tightened up, and as a consequence, Jerseys have defined purity and are free from serious cattle diseases that have afflicted other breeds.
It was however, the formation of the Royal Jersey Agricultural & Horticultural Society in 1833 that really helped improve the breed. The RJA & HS played a vital part in the selection, formation, and preservation of the distinct Jersey type. In 1866, the Jersey Herd Book was founded, since when virtually all Island Jerseys have been registered.
Jersey developed a flourishing global export trade in the cow, but the Jersey's popularity dipped in the middle of the twentieth century, until dairy buyers woke up to the increased value of the high butterfat, protein and calcium content of Jersey milk.
Today the Jersey is again in great demand. It is represented in most countries around the world and there are estimated to be more than five million pure bred Jerseys world-wide.
The latest figures show Jersey has 34 dairy herds, which produce about 14 million litres of milk a year. The milk is distributed by the Jersey Dairy, and in order to further protect this very special animal, the importation of milk into Jersey has been banned.
The Jersey Cow Sculpture
One of the highlights of 2001 was the unveiling of a life size bronze sculpture of Jersey cattle.
The sculpture was produced by sculptor John McKenna. He is a member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors and was selected from a short list of 25 French and British artists to undertake the work. Mr McKenna has already created many distinguished public commissions in the UK.
He visited the Island on a number of occasions to study the Island's famous cows and to create his life-like models alongside real cows.
The sculpture is sited in West's Centre in the Island's capital, St Helier. The appeal committee successfully raised £165,000 toward the cost of the sculpture.
Jersey milk is naturally high in butter fat content but is now sold as fresh full cream milk (5.5 per cent cream content), fat reduced (2.5 per cent cream content) and low fat (1.1 per cent cream content). Read more.