The Boyd Barn, Bobcaygeon
November 18, 2022
Aerial of Boyd Barn Bobcaygeon 2021
Canadian Birthplace of the Polled Hereford & Home to Many Buffalo Adventures
Mossom Boyd was one of the rare Timber Barons whose wealth and success was real—he went from being an orphan who came over with the clothes he was wearing and the Bible, to a multi-millionaire in an era when “A Dollar a Day” was a workin’ man’s wage.
His son, Mossom M. (Mossie) Boyd grew up with the benefits of an education, plus his father’s fantastic wealth, and also conveniently owned Bobcaygeon. While his father had been one of the hardest-working and hardest-driving men ever to live in the Kawarthas, Mossie took the time for gentlemanly pursuits.
In the nineteenth century, improving agriculture was a social cause that almost universally esteemed. In that era, most people had some first hand experience of what it meant to go hungry, and most every family faced eternal, monotonous manual labour just trying to get by on the farm—clearing land with ox and axe, mowing hay by hand, processing almost all the food they would eat. Anyone who figured out a way to improve agricultural yields or make farm life less tedious was instantly a hero. Many gentlemen dabbled in improving agriculture. Mossie Boyd had the time and money to take it to another level. Today we take for granted the technological advances that were painstakingly achieved over generations.
Mossie figured that if he could cross a Buffalo with a domestic cow, to make an animal that would have the flesh of a cow but the size and shoulders of a buffalo, he could advance beef farming more in a few years than could be accomplished in generations of selective breeding. He acquired a buffalo bull named Napoleon Bonaparte from California and crossed it to Hereford and Angus cows.
The animals were pastured on Big (aka Boyd) Island in Pigeon Lake… but buffalo can swim quite well. Before long the herd was romping all over the county (they made it at least as far as Viamede Resort on Stoney Lake). The Barn has a cupola so Boyd’s workers could try to keep an eye on the animals and herd them back to island—including chasing them through the water with steamboats.
Though he produced crosses that could reproduce, he did not achieve a marketable animal in his lifetime, and moved on to producing the Polled Hereford. By breeding the horns off these cows, they would devote more of their energy to producing flesh, and would also be easier to handle. He successfully produced the polled Hereford by breeding a freak polled Herefords he bought in Iowa with Angus cows (a breed that already did not have horns). Polled Herefords soon became the most popular breed of cattle in Canada. Though some local farmers grumble that when he bred the horns off the cows, he also bred off their hind end.
To learn more about the Boyds, or to see Napoleon Bonaparte, check out the Boyd Museum: https://theboydmuseum.com