George Washington bred livestock to provide strong work animals as well as wool, leather, meat, milk, butter, and perhaps most importantly to a farmer—fertilizer. No part of the animal went to waste; even bones and horns were used for buttons, shoe horns, toothbrushes, eating implements, and decorative items. A creative and experimental farmer, Washington was more enthusiastic about animal husbandry than many of his 18th-century peers. The average colonial farmer, or even large colonial planters, did not raise nearly the number and variety of livestock that populated Mount Vernon.
Today, guests will encounter many of the same breeds raised at Mount Vernon two centuries ago, including Ossabaw Island Hogs, Hog Island Sheep, Bronze Gobbler Turkeys, Dominique Chickens, Red Devon Cattle, horses, mules, and oxen. As a member of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Mount Vernon fully supports the goal of saving rare domestic breeds.