Concept

Robert Bakewell (agriculturalist)

Résumé
Robert Bakewell (23 May 1725 – 1 October 1795) was an English agriculturalist, now recognized as one of the most important figures in the British Agricultural Revolution. In addition to work in agronomy, Bakewell is particularly notable as the first to implement systematic selective breeding of livestock. His advancements not only led to specific improvements in sheep, cattle and horses, but contributed to general knowledge of artificial selection. Robert Bakewell, the second eldest son, was born on 23 May 1725 at Dishley Grange, near Loughborough in Leicestershire. As a young man he travelled extensively in Europe and Britain, learning about other farming methods. Others interested in his work included Prince Grigory Potemkin and François de la Rochefoucauld (1765–1848). He supported his revolutionary new breeding techniques with grassland irrigation, flooding and fertilizing pasturelands to improve grazing. He taught these practices to many farmers, and in 1783 formed The Dishley Society to promote them and to advance the interests of livestock breeders. His apprentices and contemporaries, especially Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, used his methods to continue improvements to British livestock long after his death in October 1795. Arguably the most influential of Bakewell's breeding programs was with sheep. Using native stock, he was able to quickly select for large, yet fine-boned sheep, with long, lustrous wool. The Lincoln Longwool was improved by Bakewell, and in turn the Lincoln was used to develop the subsequent breed, named the New (or Dishley) Leicester. It was hornless and had a square, meaty body with straight top lines. These sheep were exported widely, including to Australia and North America, and have contributed to numerous modern breeds, despite the fact that they fell quickly out of favour as market preferences in meat and textiles changed. Bloodlines of these original New Leicesters survive today as the English Leicester (or Leicester Longwool), which is primarily kept for wool production.
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