Heritage Breed Livestock Conservation

Many people are aware of endangered species in the wild, such as sea turtles or spotted owls, very few realize that domesticated livestock species are also threatened. The livestock seen grazing in the fields, cooling in the shade, or lazing about in the barnyard paddocks at Piscataway Park are rare breeds of animals that no longer conform to the needs of modern agriculture. These breeds were imported to the U.S. around the time of colonial settlement and are an essential part of the Accokeek Foundation’s historical programming. More importantly, they are preserved to promote sustainable agriculture and genetic diversity.  
The Accokeek Foundation works to increase awareness about special breeds of endangered domesticated livestock by promoting and preserving heritage breeds through a managed breeding program, demonstration, and education.

Milking Devon cattle

American Milking Devons are a tri-purpose breed with a ruby red coat with black-tipped white horns.  Devons come from the southwestern peninsula of England, where the breed was developed over several centuries. Devons are valued for the production of high quality beef and rich milk.The American Milking Devon breed is now distinct from other Devon populations in the world and closest to the breed’s original type, and is unique to the United States. With the exception of one bull, all of the Milking Devon cattle in our pastures are breeding cows.


Hog Island Sheep

Two hundred years ago, a flock of sheep was established on Hog Island, a barrier island off the eastern shore of Virginia. Hog Island sheep evolved to become foragers, showing excellent reproductive ability and hardiness in their harsh environment. They vary in physical appearance; most of the sheep white, though about twenty percent are black. Newborn lambs are frequently spotted over the body, but the spots usually disappear as the lambs mature. The face and legs of these sheep can be speckled brown, white, and black, or have black faces and legs. Ewes may be horned or polled and rams may have horns or are somewhat polled, with only small scurs on their heads in the place of horns.

Ossabaw hogs

A feral breed found on Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia near Savannah, Ossabaw hogs are said to have been brought to America by the Spanish during early American settlement. They are typically black, although some are black with white spots, white with black spots, or rarely red. Ossabaw are unusual and important for three reasons. First, its history as an isolated island population has meant that the Ossabaw is the closest genetic representative of historic Spanish stock. Second, the presence of pigs on Ossabaw Island provides scientists with an exceptional opportunity to study a long-term feral population that is well-documented. Third, the Ossabaw breed is biologically unique, having been shaped by natural selection in a challenging environment known for heat, humidity, and seasonal scarcity of food. They are able to store astounding amounts of body fat in order to survive. This biochemical adaptation is similar to non-insulin-dependent diabetes in humans, making the pigs a natural animal model for this disease. Ossabaw hogs are also found to be particularly well suited for sustainable or pastured pork production.



The mixed flock of chickens and turkeys at Piscataway Park demonstrate backyard chicken keeping for any farmer, homesteader, or hobbist looking for a more sustainable lifestyle. The breeds selected provide a colorful array of eggs which are sold at markets and in the Visitor’s Center.

View the Gallery of all of our Beautiful Heritage Breeds!