The History of the Sussex Breed

The Sussex Breed is one of the oldest and purest Breeds of English Cattle. The Normans found them in the South of England at the time of the Conquest in 1066. This cattle breed was considered to be Descendants of the medium-sized Red cattle found by the Romans in the Southern counties of England. The first noteworthy importations of Sussex cattle into Southern Africa occurred during the first years of the twentieth century when the late Mr Alec Holm of the Potchefstroom Agricultural College was sent to England to select a cattle breed best suited to Southern African conditions.

Early History In South Africa

20 Sussex cows were imported in 1903 and again in 1909 and by the year 1920, 82 Sussex bulls had been sold to farmers.  Subsequent herds were those of Smart Syndicate, near Brits, established in 1910, the Mazunga herd (owned by Liebig’s Extract of  Meat Co Rhodesia) and the Ballineety herd of MrGlanfeld in 1912 and the stud which Dr HJ Orford established at Bosworth farm near Klerksdorp in 1914.  As time went by the various breeders decided upon a better liaison among themselves and on 2 April 1920 a resolution to form a Society was adopted. The constitution, rules and regulations were approved on 6 May of the same year and the Sussex Cattle Breeders Society of SA came into being. Dr HJ Orford was elected as the first President with 19 members and more than 50 registered cows.

The Sussex breed was successful during the Twenties and performed well at the different shows. It was at this time that the Rand Show was selected as the prime show of the Sussex breed and in 1919 a SA bred Sussex won the championship for the first time. In 1927 a Sussex cow won the interbreed championship and in 1932 a Sussex\Afrikaner ox won the slaughter stock section of the Witwatersrand Agricultural Society show. To this day the Sussex has always stood its own in the market place and at all the major shows throughout Southern Africa.

Sussex history 1940 – 2000

During the 1950s leading breeders who participated in shows such as the Royal in Pietermaritzburg, but especially the Rand Show, were JL Orford, D Bruce Evans and J. Rhys Evans, while the judge was usually Mr Parfitt of the Cape. National Sussex shows were held every three years at the above venues. During this time Jack Orford presided over four studs that were run together at Bosworth Farm, named Bosworth, Barrington, Brookeshall and Redholme. During the hey-days of the Witwatersrand Agricultural Show at Milner Park, the Sussex Society had their own suite overlooking the judging rings. Competition between stud breeders was fierce, and a significant achievement this decade came in 1959 when Shackleton Amazon 4th owned by Bruce Evans won the Chamber of Mines Gold Cup.

In general, the ’60s was a decade of strong growth for the breed, propelled to the forefront mainly by the Rhys Evans Group of Huntersvlei. Their dedication to entering fat stock from the Skietlaagte commercial herd at both the Rand Spring Show as well as the Royal Show paid handsome dividends. Cross-bred Sussex / Afrikaner oxen from Skietlaagte, which was then ably managed by Charles Johnstone, often won these block test competitions. This dominance extended for as many years as the Spring Show remained in existence, and really put the Sussex breed on the map. Commercial breeders had no choice but to take notice if they wished to remain competitive in the years when the national herd was mainly Afrikaner in origin. However, the prizewinning animals were predominantly Sussex out of first or second cross Sussex / Afrikaner cows.

During the 1970s and early ’80s, Sussex dominated the inter-breed classes at the country’s foremost livestock shows. At this time there was intense competition between various studs, with newcomers such as Reg Wright and later Robin Greene (both from Natal), as well as entries from the Eastern Cape in Orpen and Sephton (who used to show together). However, the Bosworth stud now owned by Dr Neil Orford, and Anthony Evans’ Huntersvlei herd still continued to dominate overall. Neil Orford won the Gold Cup in 1973 (Barrington Delight 13th) followed by Anthony Evans’ Huntersvlei Prince 26th in 1984. During this period the Huntersvlei show team was managed by Des Quin, a superb cattleman.

A Sussex cow, Redholme Ecstasy 12th, shown by Dr Neil Orford of Bosworth won the Gold Cup at Nasrec for the last time in 1994. This was followed by Anthony Evans’ Huntersvlei Titan in 1998 – a bull that won at every show he entered. By then Dallas Phillips had taken over the Huntersvlei show team and was well on the way to becoming a knowledgeable cattleman in his own right. Other breeders who showed down the years were Willie Anderson (Mampudi), Chris Nel (Eversar), Gerhard Gous (Aldra), Mike Orpen (Avoca), Trevor Stotter (Stotterheim) and Jan van Biljon (Niekerksrust) to name a few. However, when the Witwatersrand Agricultural show closed down it was the end of an era, and the main focus shifted to Vryburg, and a lesser extent Bloemfontein

In earlier years private production sales were not held to the same extent as recent times. Jan van Biljon was the pioneer in this respect. He first held a production sale in 1968, and remarks that it was an uphill battle in the first few years. The reason was that farmers were used to buying bulls on the farms direct, but this later became too time-consuming for stud breeders, so it was easier to sell bulls once a year instead. Jan van Biljon said selling bulls from the farm could take up to 2 days per client so that he moved towards holding an annual sale and later refused to sell animals out of hand. Huntersvlei first held a production sale in 1969, and then other breeders gradually followed. The National Sale in Bloemfontein became well established as a sales outlet for smaller stud breeders, as well as for Western Cape breeders to access the bull market further north.

The Sussex Breed is one of the oldest and purest Breeds in the World.

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