A visitor to 18th-century Williamsburg would have been immediately aware of the sights, sounds and smells of animals. Travelers came to Virginia’s capital city by horse, carriage or on foot; goods imported from Europe or the other colonies were hauled into town by wagons from the nearby landings; many residents owned cows, horses, sheep, hogs and poultry; and other animals were brought to market here in town.
Colonial Williamsburg launched the Coach & Livestock program in 1929, when the Foundation purchased the Goode-Merritt carriage for $500. In the decades since, the Historic Area has added many more carriages as well as other vehicles, animals and related programs. Today the Coach & Livestock operation helps convey the status of agriculture, the role of transportation and aspects of recreation in the 18th-century world. The program invites guests—young and old—to observe sheep, oxen, cattle, poultry and horses in a natural environment.
The Foundation’s carriage drivers are certified by the Carriage Association of America. A carriage ride on Duke of Gloucester Street is a treasured memory of many of our guests, and we have provided a record number of rides throughout the Historic Area in recent years. Because of high demand, we are hiring more carriage drivers so we will be able to offer even more. In addition to their usual duties of driving the carriages and taking care of the horses, our drivers also are learning how to paint carriages.
Many of the animals seen in the Historic Area played a major role in the development of North American agriculture, and today the Coach & Livestock program acquires, husbands and preserves breeds that were common in the 18th century but now are threatened or endangered.
Working with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Colonial Williamsburg promotes and protects these endangered and rare breeds, transporting visitors back to America’s agrarian past. Our animals provide wool, eggs, meat, milk and manure for the Historic Area and act as a living “safe deposit box” of genetic diversity. The Foundation acquired five rare Cleveland Bay horses, for example, making Colonial Williamsburg a leader among those working with these beautiful and historical animals. Our Cleveland Bay breeding program has advanced, and one of the Foundation’s Cleveland Bays, Lord Brigadoon—informally known as Clarence—was granted his stallion license.
In 2018 the Coach & Livestock department participated in the State Fair of Virginia’s Open Dairy Competition,which allows exhibitors to show case their prized cows while competing to be the best in show.
One of the Foundation’s Milking Devon cows, Devon’s Gate Georgia Peach, won the Senior Cow class and also took home the titles of Champion Cow and reserveGrand Champion. White’s Catherine, a Milking Shorthorn, won the 4-year-old Shorthorn Class; Sara Jean, one of Colonial Williamsburg’s newest Milking Shorthorns, won the Spring Heifer Class for Shorthorns; and Juno—along with ox driver Darin Durham—won the Pretty Cow (Fancy Dress) crown and placed fourth in the Senior Cow class. Two other cows, Moon and Mercedes, also placed in their categories of Spring Heifer and Summer Heifer.
We are delighted to report that a Cleveland Bay foal, Valiant, was born on April 28. Three additional foals are expected in the coming weeks. Valiant and two other foals are genetically matched using data from the Single Population Animal Records Keeping System—SPARKS—to our licensed stallion, Lord Brigadoon (Clarence), and our mare, Penrose Willow. Surrogate mares carried Valiant and one of his older siblings to term, while the fourth foal belongs to our mare, Old Dominion Isolde (Isabella), and a stallion named Stainmore Wolfhound. We look forward to seeing Valiant and the other new arrivals playing in the Historic Area soon. While Willow and Clarence’s foals will be helpful in sustaining the purebred population, Isabella’s foal will be particularly important to the gene pool for the breed, as Stainmore Wolfhound has only produced five purebred foals in the United States.
With the success of our breeding program so far, we are poised to become the top breeder of purebred Cleveland Bays in North America. The 2018 census lists 182 registered purebred Cleveland Bays in the United States, with 11 new foals added at that time. Our four new foals will place Colonial Williamsburg on the map.