Bakewell, Robert

, the most successful and celebrated experimental farmer ever known in England, was born at Dishley in Leicestershire, about 1725 or 1726. His grandfather and father had resided on the same estate since the beginning of the last century; and his father, who died about the year 1760, had the reputation of being a very ingenious farmer. Mr. Bakewell having conducted the Dishley farm several years before the decease of his father, began about fifty -five years ago, that course of experiments which has procured him such extensive fame. He originally adopted a principle, a priori, which was confirmed by the whole experience of his future life. Having remarked that domestic animals, in general, produced others possessing qualities nearly similar to their own, he conceived he had only to select from the most valuable breeds such as promised to return the greatest possible emolument to the breeder; and that he should then be able, by careful attention to progressive improvements, to produce a race of sheep, or other animals, possessing a maximum of advantage. Under the influence of this excellent notion, Mr. Bakewell made excursions into different parts of England, to inspect the various breeds, and to ascertain those which were best adapted to his purposes, and the most valuable 0f their kinds.

His next step was to select and purchase the best of all the sorts wherever they could be found and this selection, the result of several years experience, was the original stock from which he afterwards propagated his own. This excellent ground- work was alone fostered to its present unrivalled perfection by the persevering ingenuity and industry of Mr. Bakewell. About the year 1760, Mr. Bakewell sold his sheep, by private contract, at not more than two or three guineas each. Some time after he began to let some of his rams, and for a few seasons received only fifteen shillings and a guinea a-piece for them but as the | fame of his breed extended itself, he advanced his prices, and by the year 1770 was enabled to let some of his rams for the season for twenty-five guineas. Since that time the prices and credit of his stock have been progressively increasing and of late years single rams have been let for the season for the enormous price of four hundred guineas and upwards. It is a fact which has no former example, that one ram, called the Two Pounder, produced in one season the sum of eight hundred guineas, independent of ewes of Mr. Bakewell' s own stock, which, at the same rate, would have made a total the produce of a single ram of twelve hundred guineas!

Every branch of the agricultural art is more or less indebted to the fortunate genius and original mind of Mr. Bakewell. He directed his attention however the most successfully to the improvement of the sheep known by the name of the Dishley or New Leicestershire to long-horned cattle, and to strong horses of the black breed, suitable to the harness for the army. The improvement of pigs, and the cultivation of the best winter food for cattle, had latterly engaged his attention; and he had proved himself useful to the public by introducing into practice the flooding of meadows. The race of Dishley sheep are known by the fineness of their bones and flesh, the lightness of the offal, the disposition to quietness, and consequently to mature and fatten with less food than other sheep of equal weight and value. Mr. Bakewell improved his black horses by an. attention to the form which is best adapted to their use. His stallions have been let for the season for one hundred guineas and upwards. About ten years since he exhibited his famous black horse to the king and many of the nobility in the court-yard of St. James’s. His long-horned cattle have been characterised by properties similar to those of his sheep, viz. for the fineness of the bone and flesh, the lightness of the offal, and the disposition to fatten. In a word, no competitor ever had the temerity to vie with him in his horses and cattle and his sheep continue universally unrivalled, notwithstanding the competition excited at various times by motives of interest or envy.

In this place it may be worth while to insert the following statement of the prices given at two leading auctions for stock bred from Mr. Bakewell’s. These great prices, as well as the prices which these articles always maintain, are the most indubitable proofs of the high opinion which | the best and most interested judges entertain of Mr. Batewell’s merit.

The first sale which we advert to was that of Mr. Fowler of Rollwright, in Oxfordshire. This gentleman had commenced his breeding-speculations with a couple of cows and a bull which he hired of Mr. Bakewell. After his death, one article of his live stock, the horned cattle, sold for a value equal to that of the fee simple of his farm Fifteen head alone of bulls and cows sold for 2464l. or at the rate of 164l. each!

The other auction was that of Mr. Paget, at Ibstock. Mr. Paget had been many years the intimate friend, and in the Breeding Society, a very eminent and successful colleague, of Mr. Bakewell. The sale of his stock was therefore looked up to with much eagerness by the public. At this sale, one bull sold for the sum of four hundred guineas (and a sixth share of the same has since been sold for one hundred), and a two-year old heifer for eighty- four! Two hundred and eleven ewes and theaves fetched 3315 guineas —on the average, seventeen guineas each; and one lot of five ewes was sold for 310 guineas!

Mr. Bakewell, at the time of his death, was verging on his seventieth year. As he had never been married, his business devolved to Mr. Honeyborn, his nephew, a gentleman possessed of genius and enterprise similar to that of his predecessor. In person Mr. Bakewell was tall, broad set, and, in his latter years, rather inclined to corpulence. His countenance bespoke intelligence, activity, and a high degree of benevolence his manners were frank and pleasing, and well calculated to maintain the extensive popularity he had acquired. His domestic arrangements at Dishley were formed on a scale of hospitality to strangers, that gained him universal esteem of the numerous vistants induced by curiosity to call at his house, none ever left it without having reason to extol the liberality of its owner. Many interesting anecdotes are related of his humanity towards the various orders of animals he continually deprecated the atrocious barbarities practised by butchers and drovers; shewing, by example on his own farm, the most pleasing instances of docility in the animals under his care. He departed this life on Thursday, October 1, 1795, after a tedious illness, which he bore with the philosophical fortitude that ever distinguished his character. 1

1 Gent. Mag. for 1795. Agricultural Report for Leicestershire. Nichols’i Hist, of Leicestershire, arj. Dishley, vol. III.