Top international livestock producer and judge, Robert Miller passionate about improving livestock agriculture around the world.
1856-1935 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)
Impact & Accomplishments
The Millers were pioneers of the Canadian livestock industry, and their efforts to import, breed, and promote Shorthorn cattle, Clydesdale horses, Berkshire and Yorkshire hogs, and Cotswold, Leicester, and Shropshire sheep had a tremendous impact on herds and flocks throughout North America.
The firm of John Miller & Sons—with John’s sons John, Jr., and Robert—became one of the most successful livestock operations on the continent. Robert, who was the firm’s chief salesman and promoter, was the first president of the Canadian Sheep Breeders’ Association, president of the Shorthorn Breeders Association (1901-1902), chairman of the Canadian National Livestock Records Board (1922-1924), president of the Canadian National Exhibition (1925-1926), and director of the International in Chicago. Robert Miller was also a leader of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition and the Royal Winter Fair.
In great demand in the show ring, he was sent to Argentina to judge at Palermo in 1923. He established his own farm, Burn Brae, in Stouffville, Ontario. Robert married Frank W. Harding’s sister, linking two Saddle & Sirloin Club legacy families by marriage.
In 1980, Robert Miller was inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Did You Know?
By 1920, when Miller undertook his last voyage, he had crossed the Atlantic 25 times to purchase Shorthorns and other stock for himself, the family, and clients in North America, Mexico, and Central and South America.
Robert Miller was inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1980, and his portrait hangs in its gallery at the National Trade Centre in Toronto. Thistle Ha’, the farm that was his home for around 40 years, was declared an Ontario heritage property in 1977 and a national historic site in1979.
When the directors of the Chicago International, the pre-eminent livestock show in North America, were asked by their counterparts in Argentina to send judges to their Palermo (suburb of Buenos Aires) show, which was then the biggest livestock show in the world, Robert Miller went as one of the judges.
As a July 28, 1923 a newspaper article [writer and newspaper unknown] notes, Robert Miller was in for a shock when he started judging the sheep:
The Palermo show authorities asked the directors of the Chicago International to send three judges for the 1916 exhibition. One of them was to judge draught horses and sheep, an unusual combination, of which Robert Miller of Stouffville was judged to be the most notable possessor. So he went down south on a trip that took in Brazil and Chili [sic] (on the return), and showed what a Latin display, mainly of animals deriving from the British Isles, could be and do.
In one class of Lincoln rams two hundred and ten animals had to be judged: seventy pens of three each. Mr. Miller at first was almost flummoxed by the formidability of this task, especially as a champion had to be named from the array. Looking over the lot, four pens obviously stood out from the rest, and he had no difficulty in awarding the first four prizes, the choices between them being hard enough to make.
When the day was over, a great breeder of that country, an Englishman, asked Mr. Miller if he would like to know to whom the first four prizes went. They were won by brothers named Gibson, each of whom took two prizes. The Gibsons, it was explained, were Englishmen who had come to Argentina from Tasmania, bringing their flocks with them, and settling on the coast, where the salted air had developed a wonderfully fine texture of wool on the Lincolns, perhaps the most famous breed for fineness and luster of its fleeces. Twenty years before Mr. Miller had been asked by Mr. Mansell, one the leading English sheep authorities, to help him select the foundation of the Lincoln flock, which two Gibson brothers were taking to Tasmania. The four pens to which Mr. Miller gave the prizes in Palermo, knowing nothing of their ownership or origin, were descendants of the rams and ewes he had selected for the Gibsons.