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Garfield Farm Museum’s Rare Breeds Show May 20

CAMPTON HILS, IL: The 32 Annual Rare Breeds Show will be held on Sunday May 20 from 11 am until 4 pm at Garfield Farm Museum. This is the longest running show in the Midwest that has featured rare breeds of farm and working animals. Members of the national organization, the Livestock Conservancy have participated every year.

    This year's show expects some breeds or types of animals that have not been at the show in several years. A Milking Devon cow and calf are coming that reflects more than just one of the oldest breeds of cattle brought to Plymouth by the Pilgrims. The museum has an ancient pair of Milking Devon oxen and often the question is asked do we breed them. This shows the detachment of today's population from the world of domestic animals that we depend upon to this day. Oxen are any cattle 4 years old that have been trained voice commands to pull plows, stone boats, logs, wagons, whenever animal power is needed. As males develop more muscle than females, bull calves are selected to be later neutered so they still develop the musculature and have better temperments than a bull. Obviously, since the museum does not have a breeding herd at this point, the presence of a cow and calf will help make the connection to the basics of animal husbandry many don't know. Fewer still make the connection that dairy cows only produce milk when they have calves so the most basics of food production can be realized attending the show.

   Red Devon Association, a beef breed, will be represented by Scott Paquin of Michigan who will also present a lecture about small farming.

    Other cattle in attendance are from the Winnifred Hoffman Family of Earlville IL an there BestYet A.I. Sires Farm where they raise Dutch Belted and traditional Milking Shorthorn dairy cattle. The Dutch Belt has the distinctive white belt around its middle with a black fore and aft.

    Jim Ward of Ohio has Dominique and Black Java chickens which are the two oldest breed of American chickens. In the late 1800s the White Java was developed and the Auburn Java has been a modern day variety developed by Lyle Behl having obtained from the Museum of Science and Industry some of the hatchings that came out of the Garfield Farm Museum flock. Behl will also have Icelandic chickens and Clyde Grover will bring his French Wheaton Marans. The new Lavender Orpington chickens, Snowy Ducks and Pilgrim geese will be represented as well. 

    Humans have depended on other animals to help in the daily task of survival. Although not domesticated, the use of falcons and hawks to hunt for game puts these birds in with working animals. Cathy Blecker of Campton Hills will display her raptor and discuss the history of falconry. More familiar as working animals are canines. Deb Rock's Anatolian sheep dogs were breed to protect flocks of sheep from predators.

    American Guinea hogs are a breed that developed in the southeastern United States. Once very common they are now quite rare and their meat is prized by chefs for making European style cured meats or for lard for fine pastry baking. Now again popular for its taste, the Berkshire hog will be represented as part of the museum's livestock collection. On the opposite extreme of flavorful fat in pork is the Red Wattle hog. This breed almost extinct in the 1960s is so lean that frying it requires cooking oil or fat. Clyde Grover of Rockford, the most faithful exhibitor at this 32 year old show will bring his as well as his Katahdin sheep, a variety that sheds its wool and is values for meat.

   Other sheep include Montadales, the museums Merinos, Lincoln Long Wools and for some fun antics, Nigerian dwarf goats and their kids from nearby Rustic Road Farm, a local CSA farm. When if comes to such animals, they seem to offer the most commercial products. Loren Marceau will be on hand to shear sheep, itself a rare profession in the current era. Wool yarn, fiber, rovings and fiber tools to goat milk soaps will be available for purchase. 

    Morgan horse and Hackney pony will represent equines this year and a number of the exhibiters will be offering talks on rare breeds, wool production, calf leading, and small farm topics.


    What has taken centuries of breeding to produce is now in danger of disappearing from the face of the earth as the current era emphasizes just one or two breeds of anyone animal for meeting mass market needs. Preserving the historic genetic lines of various breeds is like saving money for a rainy day. Invariably things change as Garfield Farm Museum best demonstrates and depending on just one breed or variety of animal or crop can greatly impact future society. The limited varieties of potatoes in Europe in the 1840s resulted in the great potato famine that lead to over 1 million deaths and millions of lives uprooted as people left their homes for other lands.

    The Rare Breeds Show depends upon individuals who are champions for particular breeds that they find meet their needs. From sheep that shed their wool to horses better adapted for arduous horse trekking competition, breeds were developed to meet a wide range of specific needs. High yield means nothing if the animal cannot survive in a hot environment. A too highly interrelated popular breed can be decimated by a new disease.


    For any owner of such rare breeds, the practical and economic reasons to raise these breeds are also augmented by the owners’ love of a particular breed from its appearance to its behavior. It is thus in the owner’s interest to insure the breed will survive by making others aware of these breeds and encouraging those inclined to become owners and breeders. Although the internet has put many more people in touch with breeders around the world, it is still the discovery process and seeing up close what a particular animal is like that will encourage new breeders.

    The interest in local food production and organic farming has created a whole new generation of traditional farmers that are discovering the qualities of these breeds that set their operations apart from the mass market.


    The show is set in the pastoral farmyard of the museum, with the animals and their owners stationed around the grounds speaking with the visitors who have many questions. Exhibitors are also welcome to bring and products which range from wool fleeces to home made soaps. Breed representatives may also bring displays and information even if an animal is not available. Others may offer lectures about their breeds or general topics about caring for, marketing, etc livestock and poultry.

   Fro information contact Garfield Farm Museum at Box 403 LaFox, IL 60147 or call 630 584-8485 or e-mail The public is invited to attend with a $6 donation for adults and $3 for children under 13 years of age. Garfield Farm Museum is five miles west of Geneva, IL of ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road.