It all started a long time ago in 1860 when a man named George Elliott decided to import 60 Senegalese (N’Dama) heifers and two bulls from Senegal West Africa. Mr. Henry Nelthropp, owner of Granard Estates, immediately started buying offspring from Elliott and by 1889 the herd at Granard Estate had grown to 250 cattle. Henry’s son, Albert, who kept the herd pure by not breeding outside the farm, was managing the farm. Although the N’Dama were very sturdy cows with a high resistance to heat and disease, they were not good milk producers.
Bromley Nelthropp, Albert’s brother, started to consider how he could produce a breed with the qualities of the N’Dama yet be good milk producers. His opportunity to produce this new breed came in late 1918 when he took a trip down island to Trinidad. At this point in history the records vary with regards to the Red Pol bull which Bromley found and purchased in Trinidad. One account of the transaction states that the bull Bromley purchased was named “Captain Kidd” and was renamed to “Douglas” by Bromley when he brought the bull back to St. Croix. This differs from a hand written note from one of the Nelthropp’s, that clearly states that the bull purchased by Bromley was named “Sultan”, and weighed 2,200 pounds and had 8 inch horns. The note goes further to state that the bull was not a pure breed but instead had been the offspring of a cross with a Mysor cow from India.
Whichever account is accurate, the events that followed this purchase were the beginnings of the Senepol breed. When Bromley returned to St. Croix, he used this new bull to breed with the Senegalese N’Dama herd, which produced an offspring, which was heat and disease resistant, yet has good milk producing qualities. Bromley continued to selectively breed the new cows and eventually ended up with a cow with no horns, a solid red color, and a gentle disposition. With the exception of introducing some Brahman and Red Devon breeds to his herd shortly after bringing Douglas from Trinidad, Bromley closed the herd until 1942.
In 1942, Bromley purchased a Red Pol bull named “Doctor” from Estate Tutu in St. Thomas and started using “Doctor” to breed the existing herd. This new breed was known as Nelthropp Cattle, but was also sometimes referred to as the Crucian Breed and St. Croix Cattle.
During the period from 1942-1949, Bromley started selling some of his Nelthropp cattle to some of the other N’Dama breeders on the island, occasionally purchasing back some of the better off-spring that these breeders produced.
In 1954, the breed was registered in Puerto Rico and the United States as the “St. Croix Senepol”, a name derived from the Senegal stock and the Red Pol stock. In 1977, the Virgin Islands Senepol Association of St. Croix was formed. The associations’ primary objectives were the development, registration, and promotion of the Senepol breed by promoting and maintaining high breeding standards with emphasis placed on heat tolerance, fertility, and docility.
As word of this sturdy breed got out to the world, breeders began coming to St. Croix to purchase stock to breed elsewhere. Starting in 1977, the local cattle farmers have been selling stock and shipping the cattle off island. Now after 20 years of exporting the Senepol, there are over 500 breeder’s worldwide and 14,000 Senepol records. The Senepol breed is now found in 21 states and countries such as Mexico, Zimbabwe, the Philippines, and Venezuela.
The two major Senepol farms remaining on St. Croix are the Annaly Farm and the Cattle Nugent Farm. Although the herds which remain on St. Croix have dwindled, cattle farming remains the main agricultural product of the islands.
Article first seen in St. Croix Homes Magazine.