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Heritage Livestock Conservation

Preserving biodiversity in agriculture

Many people are aware of endangered species in the wild but very few realize that domesticated livestock species are also threatened. The livestock seen grazing in the fields at Piscataway Park are rare breeds of animals with unique genetic traits. Preserving these breeds and the biodiversity they represent ensures a more secure food system for future generations.

About our breeds
Our Animals

You'll meet many friendly faces in the pastures and barnyards of Piscataway Park. Here are the unique breeds that call this place home.

American Milking Devons
Ossabaw Hogs
Hog Island Sheep
Heritage Poultry

American Milking Devon Cattle

Conservation Status: Critical
Estimated global population less than 2,000

American Milking Devons are a tri-purpose breed with a ruby red coat with black-tipped white horns.  Devons come from the southwestern peninsula of England, where the breed was developed over several centuries. Devons are valued for the production of high-quality beef and rich milk. The American Milking Devon breed is now distinct from other Devon populations in the world and closest to the breed’s original type and is unique to the United States.

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Ossabaw Island Hogs

Conservation Status: Critical
Estimated global population less than 2,000

A feral breed found on Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia near Savannah, Ossabaw hogs are said to have been brought to America by the Spanish during early American settlement. They are typically black, although some are black with white spots, white with black spots, or rarely, red. Ossabaws are unusual and important for three reasons. First, their history as an isolated island population makes the Ossabaw the closest genetic representative of historic Spanish stock. Second, the presence of pigs on Ossabaw Island provides scientists with an exceptional opportunity to study a long-term feral population that is well-documented. Third, the Ossabaw breed is biologically unique, having been shaped by natural selection in a challenging environment known for heat, humidity, and seasonal scarcity of food. They are able to store astounding amounts of body fat in order to survive. This biochemical adaptation is similar to non-insulin-dependent diabetes in humans, making the pigs a natural animal model for this disease. Ossabaw hogs are also found to be particularly well suited for sustainable or pastured pork production.


Hog Island Sheep

Conservation Status: Critical
Estimated global population less than 2,000

Two hundred years ago, a flock of sheep was established on Hog Island, a barrier island off the eastern shore of Virginia. Hog Island sheep evolved to become foragers, showing excellent reproductive ability and hardiness in their harsh environment. They vary in physical appearance; most of the sheep white, though about twenty percent are black. Newborn lambs are frequently spotted over the body, but the spots usually disappear as the lambs mature. The face and legs of these sheep can be speckled brown, white, and black, or have black faces and legs. Ewes may be horned or polled and rams may have horns or are somewhat polled, with only small scurs on their heads in the place of horns.

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Icelandic Chickens

Conservation Status: Threatened
Estimated global populations less than 5,000

Icelandic chickens originated during the Norse colonization of Iceland during the 10th century. Bred for utilitarian traits rather than to meet breed standards, a flock of Icelandic chickens is a rainbow of different feather colors. As a land-race breed they are skilled foragers and are well adapted to evade predators. Their egg production is relatively high—even during winter months—and they are known to be "broody" mothers who take excellent care of the young in the flock. There are fewer than 1,000 breeding Icelandic chickens in the U.S.

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Jersey Buff Turkeys

Conservation Status: Watch
Estimated global population less than 10,000

The original Buff turkey was a historic breed from the mid-Atlantic with "buff" or cream-colored feathers. The variety essentially went extinct in the early 1900's. With a resurgence in the demand for this buff coloring, the Jersey Buff breed was developed in the 1940's at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. The breed is known for its calm temperament and is easy to work with for small and hobby farmers.

Our Animals

For Sale From the Barnyard

Interested in raising heritage livestock on your farm? Or are you a fiber artist participating in Shave 'Em to Save 'Em? Email us for more details.

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