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Animal Life in Colonial Williamsburg

By Patricia B. Mitchell

Carriage ride, Colonial Williamsburg

The author and her mother enjoy a carriage ride in Williamsburg, Virginia during the 1950's. (Photo by John L. Beaver.)

I am a Virginian, and my daddy was a history teacher, so I have been going to Colonial Williamsburg throughout my life. One of my favorite attractions there has always been the animals, and nowadays most are “historically correct.” That is to say, Colonial Williamsburg has breeds which existed (or, at least, are similar to) breeds living in 18th-century America.

The Rare Breeds Program, begun in 1986, preserves genetic diversity in livestock by working with unusual breeds of horses, cattle, fowl, and sheep. Reproduction of the animals is, of course, encouraged; and the public gets to see and marvel at these “exotic” breeds. American Cream Draft Horses, Canadian Horses; American Milking Red Devon cows; Dorking, Dominique, and Hamburg chickens; English Game Fowl; and Leicester Longwool Sheep are all there to admire.

Colonial Williamsburg even sells yummy animal cookies commemorating these creatures.

Following are photographs of animals observed at Colonial Williamsburg in recent years.

Leicester Longwool Sheep

Leicester Longwool Sheep

“Leicester, Leicester, have you any wool?”

“Aye, sir, aye, sir, three bags full.”

American Cream Draft Horses

American Cream Draft Horse

An American Cream Draft Horse grazes. There are fewer than 200 of this breed still in existence.

Canadian Horses

Canadian Horse

A Canadian Horse pauses in the late-afternoon sun.

Clydesdale Horses


Clydesdales thunder along a Williamsburg street.

American Milking Red Devon Oxen


The American Milking Red Devon breed produces not only milk cows, but also draft oxen (see article on oxen breeds). This pair of oxen with their driver offer a picturesque image as they make their way through Colonial Williamsburg.