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In some parts of the county, considerable attention is paid to the breeding of sheep. The established breed, reared chiefly on Dartmoor and Exmoor, is the middle woolled class, bearing a strong resemblance to the Dorsets; but many other kinds are also reared. The total stock is estimated at about 700,000, of which about 200,000 produce heavy fleeces of long wool. But the extensive pasture lands are most generally appropriated to the purposes of the dairy and the fattening of the North Devon Cattle, a very fine breed, with wide spreading horns, and of an uniformly light brown colour. This breed, for working, and for fattening, is allowed to be one of the most perfect in the kingdom; but they are not much esteemed for the dairy. The native breed of horses is very small, and resembles the Welsh and Highland breeds of cattle, but all the improved breeds of cattle, sheep, and horses, from various parts of the country, are to be found here. Among the natural vegetable productions of this county is the beautiful scarlet lichen of Dartmoor, formerly extensively used as a dye for cloth, and in the manufacture of orchal.
The soils of Devon are extremely various, and may generally be characterised according to the rock, or stratified substances which they cover, as granitic, slatery, calcareous, arenaceous, argillaceous, gravelly, and loamy. The poorest is the soil covering the granite of Dartmoor, which has also the disadvantage of a cold wet climate. That which lies on the slate district is more or less fertile, and fit for all purposes of agriculture. The most uniformly fertile soils are in the red sandstone district; but the richest are those occurring in contiguity with limestone or greenstone rocks, in many parts of the slate district; especially in that beautiful southern district, commonly called the South Hams and sometimes the "Garden of Devon", and having for its natural boundaries Dartmoor and the heights of Chudleigh on the north: the river Plym on the west: Torbay and Start Bay on the east: and Bigbury Bay and other parts of the coast of the English Channel, on the south. The red colour which characterises the best soils, both in the South Hams and the eastern division of the county, and which seems to be so closely connected with the principle of fertility, proceeds from an abundant mixture of iron, in a highly oxidated state. The soil of that part of the South Hams which is bounded by the Erme and Dart rivers, is general1y a rich friable loam, of a hazel nut brown colour, mostly on a substratum of slate; but that east of the Dart as far as Torbay, is richer and redder, and generally on a substratum of marble rock.
There are extensive tracts of rich meadow and arable lands in the valley of the Exe, Taw, Teign, Otter, and other rivers. The Vale of the Exe, commonly called the Vale of Exeter, has in its northern parts an irregular billowy surface, presenting eminences of considerable magnitude; but its central and more southern parts preserve the vale character. Its northern boundaries are the hills that range from Clanaborough, by Halberton and Uffculm, to Blackdown, a dreary mountainous ridge, which, with its contiguous branches, skirts the eastern side of the vale. On the south-east it is bounded by the heights of Sidmouth, East-Down, and Woodbury; and on the west by the mountainous ridge of Haldon, and the undulating eminences that stretch towards Bow-Nymet. This vale is one of the most fertile parts of the county, and its most prevalent soils are strong red loam, shillet, or foliated clay, intersected with veins of ironstone, and a mixture of sand and gravel.