South Devon have existed in south-west England for about 400 years. They are believed to have evolved from the large red cattle of Normandy which were imported to England at the time of the Norman invasion. Over 100 years of selection for performance have given the South Devon its outstanding qualities of beef and maternal characteristics.
The South Devon is the largest of the British native breeds, being large-framed, more muscular in shape and later maturing. Its color is a rich, medium red with copper tints, though it varies in shade and can even appear slightly mottled. The skin is exceptionally thick, loose and mellow. They have a wide muzzle and dark eyes. The breed is mostly horned although naturally polled individuals do exist and polling is now being actively pursued. South Devon yield leaner carcasses than do other British breeds. The South Devon temperament is excellent.
Henry Wallace, former US Vice-President, was the first to import the breed into the United States. A breed society was formed in the US in 1974.