The Dexter originated in Ireland. Like the Kerry, they are descended from the predominately black cattle of the early Celts.
The frequently heard theory that the Dexters are a comparatively new breed is a complete fallacy as the breed is fully described and mentioned by its proper name, in a report on Irish cattle written in 1845, by Mr David Low.
From this publication we learn that the breed owes its modern appearance, name, and probably qualities to a Mr Dexter who was agent to a Lord Hawarden (pronounced ‘Harden’) who came to Ireland in 1750 and made his home in Co Tipperary. David Low stated that a Mr Dexter had produced his curious breed by selection from the best of the hardy mountain cattle of the area, and to have succeeded to a very high degree.
Dexter cattle were first introduced into England in 1882, when ten Dexters were purchased by Mr. Martin. J. Sutton of Kidmore Grange, Oxfordshire from Mr. James. Robertson of La Mancha, Nr Malahide, Dublin. They were first shown at the Royal Show at Norwich in 1886.
By 1892, this native Irish breed was so well established in Great Britain that at a meeting of breeders at the Smithfield club on December 6th resulted in the formation of the Kerry and Dexter/Kerry cattle society.