A visitor to 18th-century Williamsburg would have been immediately aware of the sights, sounds and smells of animals. Colonial Williamsburg launched the Coach & Livestock program in 1929, when the Foundation purchased the Goode-Merritt carriage for $500. In the decades since, the Historic Area has added many more carriages as well as other vehicles, animals and related programs. Today the Coach & Livestock operation helps convey the status of agriculture, the role of transportation and aspects of recreation in the 18th-century world.
The Foundation’s carriage drivers are certified by the Carriage Association of America. A carriage ride on Duke of Gloucester Street is a treasured memory of many of our guests, and we have provided a record number of rides throughout the Historic Area in recent years. In addition to their usual duties of driving the carriages and taking care of the horses, our drivers also are learning how to paint carriages.
Many of the animals seen in the Historic Area played a major role in the development of North American agriculture, and today the Coach & Livestock program acquires, husbands and preserves breeds that were common in the 18th century but now are threatened or endangered. Working with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Colonial Williamsburg promotes and protects these endangered and rare breeds, transporting visitors back to America’s agrarian past. Our animals provide wool, eggs, meat, milk and manure for the Historic Area and act as a living “safe deposit box” of genetic diversity. The Foundation acquired five rare Cleveland Bay horses, for example, making Colonial Williamsburg a leader among those working with these beautiful and historical animals. Our Cleveland Bay breeding program has advanced, and one of the Foundation’s Cleveland Bays, Lord Brigadoon—informally known as Clarence—was granted his stallion license.
Colonial Williamsburg goes to great lengths to bring the streets and pastures of the Historic Area to life and as they would have looked in the late 1700s. Through engaging interpretive programs, the Coach & Livestock team and the animals in their care provide rare opportunities to meet the kinds of animals that would have been common in 18th-century Virginia.
Our first Cleveland Bay foal, Valiant, made his debut into the world in late April. Born to surrogate mare Fudge, Valiant is the first of the Foundation’s embryo transfers to arrive and is the progeny of Clarence and Willow. An additional foal from Clarence and Willow is expected to arrive soon. A colt named Williamsburg Fearnought, also known as Monty, was born several weeks after Valiant to Isabella. With the success of our breeding program so far, Colonial Williamsburg is poised to become the top breeder of purebred Cleveland Bays in North America.
Staff from Woodside Equine Clinic called upon our horses for a special checkup recently. During the visit, Dr. Hirsch used an ultrasound to examine Duke to determine if he had sustained an injury.
In early March, Ray Clark and Dexter Randall of the American Milking Devon Board of Directors came to Williamsburg to evaluate the Foundation’s Devon cattle and to host a workshop for staff. Adult cattle were graded for breed standard, and two of our most prized animals—Peach and Juno—received very high scores.
Colonial Williamsburg welcomed 15 lambs in 2019, and they can be seen in the pasture at the corner of Francis and Nassau streets. All of the pregnant ewes were sheared in preparation for the births of their lambs, which served to make both birthing and nursing easier on mother and baby.