After two harvests, the Plymouth colonists decided that the task of raising food for the settlers would prosper only if it was separated from that of earning profits for London.
Having tried what Bradford called the “common course and condition” – the communal stewardship of the land demanded of them by their investors – Bradford reports that the community was afflicted by an unwillingness to work, by confusion and discontent, by a loss of mutual respect, and by a prevailing sense of slavery and injustice.
And this among “godly and sober men.” In short, the arrangement of communal living was a failure that was endangering the health of the colony.
In 1623 a parcel of land was allotted to each man to till for his family and to maintain those who were exempt from agricultural employment because of other duties. Each family was given one acre per family member.
In abandoning the “common course and condition” everyone worked harder and more willingly. After the first abundant harvest under individual cultivation, the Pilgrims did not have to endure the meager rations of the first years. The plots assigned them permanently in 1624 became privately owned in 1627.
The Pilgrims did not bring any large livestock animals with them on the Mayflower. In fact, the only animals known with certainty to have come on the Mayflower were two dogs, an English mastiff and an English spaniel, who are mentioned on a couple of occasions in the Pilgrims’ journals.
Although not specifically mentioned, it seems likely that they had with them some chickens, because chicken broth was given by Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow to the Wampanoag sachem Massasoit when he was sick in early 1623; and it is also likely they brought some pigs. In 1623, Emmanual Altham visited Plymouth and reported there were six goats, fifty pigs, and many chickens.
In 1624, Bradford reports that “Mr. Winslow came over, and brought a prety good supply, and the ship came on fishing, a thing fatall to this plantation. He brought 3. Heifers & a bull, the first begining of any catle of that kind in ye land”. Other cattle came, some nicknamed the “Great Black Cow”, the “Lesser Black Cow”, and the “Great White-Backed Cow”. By 1627, both the “Lesser Black Cow” and the “Great White-backed Cow” had calves.
Onboard the Jacob in 1624 were four black heifers (a heifer is a young female cow that has not yet had a calf.) The four black heifers were nicknamed “Least”, “Raghorn”, “Blind”, and “Smooth-Horned”. There was also a “Red Cow” that belonged to the poor of the colony, which had a red female calf around 1625, and a male calf in 1627.
By May 1627, there were 16 head of cattle and at least 22 goats living in Plymouth. The exact arrival of the first sheep in the colony is uncertain (likely some time before 1629). The first horses and oxen did not begin arriving until the 1630s, most being brought to the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north. (Caleb Johnson’s MayflowerHistory)
Like the distribution of land in 1623 and 1627, the Pilgrims divided their livestock (cattle, goats, etc) into separate ‘lots’ in 1627.
Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England: Deeds, &c., 1620-1651 Vol 1 tells of the 1627 Division of Cattle:
At a publique court held the 22nd of May  it was concluded by the whole Companie, that the cattell wch were the Companies, to wit, the Cowes & the Goates should be equally deuided to all the psonts of the same company & soe kept vntill the expiration of ten yeares after the date aboue written. & that euery one should well and sufficiently puid for there owne pt vnder penalty of forfeiting the same.
That the old stock with halfe th increase should remaine for comon vse to be deuided at thend of the said terme or otherwise as ocation falleth out, & the other halfe to be their owne for euer.
Vppon wch agreement they were equally deuided by lotts soe as the burthen of the keeping the males then beeing should be borne for common vse by those to whose lot the best Cowes should fall & so the lotts fell as followeth. thirteene psonts being pportioned to one lot.
Click the following link to a general summary about the Division of Cattle:
Carolynn Griffith says
Lucky we live Hawaii!!