As the producers of some of the nation’s best ag animals, Virginians have a reason to be proud. Bred for success and nurtured to excellence, the following famous farm animals have not only contributed to local agriculture, but impacted American culture and society for the better.
Named by ESPN as one of the top 50 athletes of the 20th century, Secretariat enjoyed humble beginnings before winning the Triple Crown in 1973. Loved by millions, this American Thoroughbred racehorse received the best attention and care while growing up on the fertile pastures known as “The Meadow” in Caroline County – a foundation critical to his future success.
“A lot of folks don’t realize that before Secretariat was the superstar, there were several very important Thoroughbreds and broodmares raised in The Meadow that became some of the most famous horses in racing history,” says Leeanne Ladin, author of Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend and tourism manager at The Meadow Event Park.
Considering the long tradition of horses in Virginia, it’s no coincidence that Virginia has bred some of the most important horses in all of history.
“In fact, Secretariat’s pedigree can be traced back to some of those earliest horses, and since he sired 653 foals, his bloodline continues to win races to this day,” Ladin says.
One of Secretariat’s oldest living sons, Innkeeper, beat future Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold before retiring to stud. Today, as one of the few Thoroughbred stallions approved for breeding in sport horse registries, he’s enjoying his retirement in the pastoral setting at Virginia Tech’s Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center (MARE Center).
“Innkeeper is an extremely versatile and accomplished stallion. He is instrumental in teaching the next generation of students about careers in the equine industry,” Dr. Bridgett McIntosh of MARE Center says.
Other famous descendants still residing in Virginia include Covert Action, another retired racer living at James River Correctional Facility; ATM Machine, a frequent visitor at the state fair; and Groundshaker, soon to be boarded at The Meadow Event Park.
“People love to touch a living link to the greatest racehorse ever,” Ladin says. “There have only been 12 Triple Crown winners in history, and Secretariat is the only one that broke all three track records that still stand 43 years later. His bloodline will continue to influence the breed for the foreseeable future.”
Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation
One of the most influential artificial insemination Holstein Friesian cattle bulls of the 20th century, Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation was born in Loudoun County. He was the first Holstein sire to have 10,000 registered sons and more than 600 sons by artificial insemination – gaining him international acclaim.
By 1982, Elevation had more than 200 daughters producing 30,000 pounds of milk (in one lactation of 365 days or less). Then, in 1984, Elevation had 54,843 daughters on test, setting a new world record. That same year, he also sired 2,862 Excellent daughters. The score “Excellent” is the highest classification a Holstein can receive under the Holstein Association USDA, a system that can help farmers make breeding or marketing decisions.
Today, it’s estimated that Elevation has more than 100,000 registered Holsteins internationally, and more than 95 percent of all Holstein animals worldwide can trace their bloodline back to him.
One of his estimated 9 million offspring living today, Brookfield Elevation Pretty, was named one of the Virginia Holstein Association’s Cows of the Century (2016) in addition to being Grand Champion of numerous Virginia Holstein Shows and state fairs.
Harvue Roy Frosty
A famous Holstein dairy cow from Clark County, Harvue Roy Frosty has acquired an impressive show record, most recently All World 2010 Holstein International, Supreme Champion World Dairy Expo 2010 and All-American Aged Cow 2010. She has also produced 10 Excellent daughters and 18 Very Good daughters.
With milk’s important economic impact to the state, Frosty is sure to continue to attract attention and the admiration of Virginians for years to come