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Where is it Located

About the Cattle Pen

George Washington often referred to his cattle as "black cattle," the standard terminology used to differentiate bovines from "white cattle" or sheep. During the peak of Washington’s farming operation, over 300 cattle lived on the Estate. Cattle provided meat, milk, and associated products like butter, cream, and cheese. They were also a reliable source of labor on the farm.

For much of his life, Washington tried to upgrade the quality of the cattle on his lands, through the use of well-bred bulls descended from English stock. Mount Vernon raises Milking Devon cattle, a breed developed in England and brought to Massachusetts in 1623. The Devons are known for their deep red color and versatility. They are a hardy breed and can thrive in rugged conditions. Mount Vernon’s heritage breed program raises Devons as part of a conservation effort to help preserve the breed. The cattle are listed as “critical” with The Livestock Conservancy, meaning less than 200 animals are registered in the United States annually.

Washington branded all of his cattle with “GW” for identification purposes. The location of the mark indicated where the cattle were regularly pastured: on the left buttock for Dogue Run Farm, on the right buttock for the Neck Plantation, on the left shoulder for Muddy Hole Farm, and on the right shoulder for the mill.

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