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Caring for Mount Vernon’s Livestock

Animals were used in every aspect of farm life in the 18th century. Today, Mount Vernon works to share this with visitors.

One of Mount Vernon's Milking Devon cattle. (MVLA)
One of Mount Vernon's Milking Devon cattle. (MVLA)
Mount Vernon’s livestock program was developed in the early 1990s to educate visitors about the importance of livestock in George Washington’s time.

Our goal in the Livestock Department is to provide an accurate and educational interpretation of 18th-century farm life while maintaining modern standards of health care for the animals.

We also play a strong role in the preservation of several rare breeds that date back as far as the 17th century.

Mount Vernon is currently home to just under 100 animals—sheep, cattle, horses, a donkey, pigs, chickens, and two cats.

The Livestock Team

The Livestock Department consists of five full-time, three part-time, and several seasonal part-time staff. We come from all backgrounds—previous employment in museum settings, veterinary medicine training, and equine and livestock management.

All of our animals are individuals and require individual care. The animals are fed based on body condition and nutritional requirements, and supplements are given as needed. Every morning, staff feed the animals at the livestock facility and in the historic area. The animals are given grain and hay, and fresh water is provided. At this time, the animals are checked over for lumps, scrapes, and observed to make sure everyone is eating and acting normally. The same routine is performed in the afternoon.

During the day, staff tend to any animals requiring medical attention. We work with a local large animal veterinarian if the treatment is beyond our capabilities. The sheep and other animals are periodically rotated in groups from the historic part of the estate and kept behind the scenes at the stables where they relax and are tended to for any medical issues. Their pens are cleaned out, fences and shelters are repaired, and pastures tended to as needed. We are on-call 24/7. During the birthing season, staff are often on-site during the midnight hours to tend to any problems and stay overnight to monitor animals.

Livestock manager Lisa Pregent with a couple of newborn lambs. (MVLA)

Senior Animal Caretaker Joe Dearmon tends to one of Mount Vernon's horses. (MVLA)

Tour the Linda Mars Livestock Barn

In June 2019, Mount Vernon opened the Linda Mars Livestock Facility, a new state-of-the-art building, for the estate’s livestock, staff, and volunteers. The new 12,500-square-foot livestock building featuring spacious stalls, a tack room, medical facility, grooming area, and office space.


The livestock team does not just take care of Mount Vernon’s animals. They are also responsible for the care of many animals that visit the estate. Each year, Mount Vernon hosts Revolutionary War Weekend and Christmas at Mount Vernon.

During each of these events, animals are brought to the estate for visitors to see. The Livestock Department ensures all of these animals have access to water, food, and shelter.

Mount Vernon's Revolutionary Weekend. (MVLA)


Since 2007, Aladdin the camel has visited Mount Vernon for the Christmas holiday. Livestock staff feed Aladdin twice a day. He eats a molasses-based feed as well as hay. Aladdin is given warm water, which he prefers to drink straight from the bucket. During the day, he often walks around his pen greeting his admirers, lays down for a quick nap, and munches on hay periodically. Aladdin enjoys human interaction, so we make sure he gets the attention he needs.

Learn more

Mount Vernon Wakes Up: Feeding The Animals

Look behind the scenes to see how Mount Vernon's Livestock Department cares for its wide variety of animals.

Heritage Breeds

Mount Vernon is home to several rare heritage breeds of livestock. Our Milking Devon cattle, Hog Island sheep, Ossabaw Island hogs, and Narragansett turkeys are all listed as critical with The Livestock Conservancy, meaning there are less than 200 animals registered every year. We have breeding programs for these three breeds and help promote and educate about the importance of saving them for future generations.

All of our animals are registered with The Livestock Conservancy. They are given names and two forms of identification for record-keeping. We use computer software to track genetic lines to prevent inbreeding. We have been recognized as one of the top breeders of Ossabaw Island hogs with 0% inbreeding. Many of the offspring (lambs, calves, and piglets) are sold to other historic sites and hobby farmers, helping to preserve these rare breeds.

A few of Mount Vernon's Ossabaw Island hogs. (MVLA)

Educating Visitors

Our livestock handlers are in the public view daily. During most of the year, we are out every day with the animals to greet and educate our visitors about the importance of livestock and farming. We talk to thousands of people a day, some of whom have never had an up-close encounter with a horse or an ox or a sheep.

There is no greater pleasure than to have our visitors leave Mount Vernon having gained new knowledge of George Washington, his livestock, and his farming practices. We have an important job to do. Continuing to tell the story of Washington and our country’s past is our future.

Livestock staff showing guests a draft horse. (MVLA)

There is no greater pleasure than to have our visitors leave Mount Vernon having gained new knowledge of George Washington, his livestock, and his farming practices.

Meet the Animals

Visit the animals living at Mount Vernon, including breeds raised on the estate in George Washington’s time.

Plan Your Visit