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History of Cattle Breeds

The Angus breed of cattle is originally from the highlands of northern Scotland, in the counties or "shires" of Angus and Aberdeen. (Many parts of the world today Angus cattle are known as Aberdeen-Angus)  The first Angus bulls were brought to the United States in 1873 by George Grant, a native Scotsman, who brought four Angus bulls for use on his ranch near Victoria, Kansas. Kansas is located in Heartland America and is the geographic center of the Lower 48 states. Kansas is the epitome of Heartland America since it is considered the breadbasket of the United States.


The Ankole-Watusi cattle is an ancient hybrid of long-horned, humpless domestic cattle from Egypt and longhorn Zebu from Pakistan and India.  The mixture of these two breeds produced the Sanga breed which could be found in 2,000 B.C.E. in modern day Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and other parts of eastern Africa, and became the base stock of many of the indigenous African breeds.  In Uganda, the Nkole tribe's Sanga variety is known as the Ankole. In Rwanda and Burundi, the Tutsi tribe's Sanga variety is called the Watusi.  Traditionally, Ankole-Watusi were considered sacred.


The Ayrshire breed is originally from the County of Ayr in Scotland in the 17th century.  During its development, first it was referred to as the Cunningham, secondly it was reffered to as the Dunlop, and now it is referred to as the Ayrshire.  Its characteristics gradually became well enough established to consider it a distinct breed, and in 1786, the first Ayrshire show was sponsored by the Highland Agricultural Society.


The Bazadaise, pronounced baz-a-day, is a French beef breed originally from the small town of Bazas, some 60km south of Bordeaux.  Obviously its name was derived from the town where it was developed.   The breed is believed to be a hybrid of the local Autochthon breed with the Bos Indicus brought by the invading Moors in the middle ages.  The French Bazadaise herd book was first established in 1895.


The Beefalo breed can have up to 3/8 Bison genetics. The other 5/8 of the genetic makeup can come from virtually any of the domestic breeds of cattle (Angus, Limousin, Hereford, etc.) or from any of the newer composite breeds (Beefmaster, Santa Gertrudis, etc.). The breeding can be accomplished by natural service, by artificial insemination, or by using newer reproductive techniques like embryo transfer.  Beefalos and not sterile.  If two beefalos mate, the calf will be a beefalo.


Tom Lasater developed the Beefmaster breed by systematic breeding of Hereford, Shorthorn and Brahman cattle. His purpose was to develop cattle that were more productive than existing breeds and that would produce and make money during economically hard times in the harsh environment of South Texas.


The  Belgian Blue Cattle originated in the small European country of Belgium. While today Belgian Blue cattle are their own fullblood registered breed, their roots can be tracked back well over a century to a crossing of Durham Shorthorns and Friesian cattle.   Initially, the Belgian Blue Cattle was breed for the dual purpose of milk and meat production.  But today Belgian Blue Cattle is exclusively a beef producing breed.


Europeans have bred Blonde d'Aquitaine cattle since the 6th century.  These beef cattle evolved from draft animals, which explains their muscle development, hardiness and docile temperament. At one time they pulled carts, carrying weapons and goods plundered by eastern conquerors, across Germany and Gaul into Spain and Portugal.  Today, Blondes and bred for beef.  The first Blondes was imported to North America, from France, in 1972.


The Bonsmara breed was developed in South Africa.  It is a hardy, heat resistant beef producer.


The Braford Cattle Breed was created to consistently and efficiently produce a uniform product in challenging production environments. In 1947, Alto Adams Jr worked with a base herd of Brahman cows that were primarily Partin and Hudgins breeding.  He began using Hereford bulls on his St. Lucie county, Florida ranch.  The resulting steer and heifer calves were outstanding, but, the Hereford bulls required to produce those calves had extreme problems with feet, eyes and general livability. He quickly realized that using Hereford bulls, that were not adapted to South Florida, was simply not economically feasible and so he began experimenting with various types of Brahman-Hereford cross bulls. Eventually he was able to identify Braford bulls that were producing the calves that met his needs and he used these bulls and their offspring to form what is recognized as the Foundation Herd of the Braford breed in the United States.


The American Brahman Cattle Breed is the first breed developed in the United States.  The American Brahman Cattle Breed Originated from a nucleus of approximately 266 bulls and 22 females of several Bos indicus (cattle of India) types imported into the United States starting in 1854, today the Brahman breed has achieved acceptance for their environmental adaptability, longevity, mothering ability and efficient beef production.


Purebred Brahmousin are classified as five-eighths Limousin and three-eighths Brahman. This mix has been found to be the most widely accepted and most useful for the majority of the United States.


The Brangus Breed is a hybrid breed.  It is three-eighths Brahman Breed  (or Zebu) and five-eighths Angus breed..


Braunvieh may be the oldest pure breed on earth, with records dating back to 800 B.C. Recently, archeologists have found cattle bones among the ruins of the ancient Swiss Lake Dwellers similar to those of the present day Braunvieh. This would date these cattle in the region to the Bronze Age.


There are at least two theories  of the origin of the British White Cattle.  One theory suggests that they was brought to the United Kingdom by the Roman's in 55 B.C.E.  Another suggests that they were in the U.K. in pre-Roman times, possibly as long ago as 2000 B.C.E.  One of the oldest herds of British White Cattle was the Sommerford herd. It was owned by Sir Walter Shakerly in Cheshire and established in 1725.  In 1940, the British Government ordered the shipment of a group of these cattle to North America to safeguard a precious national heritage if the United Kingdom was invaded. This was the only breed to be safe guarded in this manner.


Approximately 130 head of Braunvieh were imported into the United States from Switzerland between 1869 and 1880. This was the basis for the development of the American Brown Swiss that was declared a dairy breed in the late 1800s, and therefore became a different breed. American Brown Swiss have since spread to Canada, Mexico and throughout the world including Switzerland.  The Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders' Association of the USA was formed in 1880 when a group of Brown Swiss breeders organized themselves in Worcester, Massachusetts.


Russ Bueling created the BueLingo Cattle Breed in 1983.  Russ started with a pair of Dutch Belted Cattle and using his breeding expertese developed the BueLingo breed.  For a complete explanation click here.


The solid white Charolais Cattle Breed was developed in the area around Charolles in Central France, where the French had been keeping records on them for more than 200 years. Charolais is the first continental breed to be imported into Great Britain. This solid white cow came to the United States in 1934 when the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture gave Mecum Michaelis of Kyle, Texas, two Charolais bulls.


Chianina (pronounced Kee-a-nee-na) is one of the oldest breeds of cattle in the world. They originated in Central Italy over 2000 years ago.  The name originated in Central Italy in the province of Tuscany. The Chiana Valley, where grapes and the famous Chianti wines come from, is the home of Fullblood Chianina cattle. Chianina were initially introduced into the United States in 1971, when the first Chianina semen was imported. The first Chianina born in the U.S. was a black half-blood Chianina X Angus/Holstein bull calf born on January 31, 1972. Beginning in 1975, Italian Fullblood Chianina were exported from Canada into this country.


The Corriente can be traced back to the first cattle brought to the new world by the Spanish as early as 1493.  These cattle were hardy breeds chosen especially to withstand the ocean crossing and adapt to their new land.  They were brought to the West Indies and south Florida, as well as Central and South America.  Over the centuries the descendants of these cattle were bred for different purposes - milk, meat and draft animals.  They also adapted through natural selection to the various regions in which they lived.  Eventually, their descendants spread across the southern U.S. and up the coast of California.


In 1623, two heifers and a bull from north Devonshire, England, were received by a member of the Plymoth Colony. This was the beginning of the American Devon Cattle Breed.  They were the first importation of cattle from Britain, although the Spanish had introduced cattle in the south.  Their immediate value was as draft animals. Cattle from Devonshire had long been recognized in England for their speed, intelligence, strength, willingness to work, and ability to prosper on coarse forage, in a wide range of climates.  In later years, other cattle were imported and contributed to the American Devon Cattle Breed, which developed as the ideal multipurpose breed. None could surpass it for draft work; the milk was good for cream and cheese making; and the carcass developed fine beef on poor forage.


Dexters are one of the smallest breeds of cattle and are a dual purpose breed believed to have originated in Ireland. The first American imports arrived in 1905 and the registry was founded in 1911.


The Droughtmaster breed was developed  in the early 1920s, by commercial cattlemen specifically for Australia's inhospitable environment.  Combining the benefits offered by Bos taurus (such as Shorthorns, Herefords and Shorthorn-Devon cross) & Bos indicus (Zebus) genetics in one breed, gave the Droughtmaster  a distinct advantage over many other breeds.


The Galloway is one of the world's oldest beef breeds, the descendant of two distinct aboriginal breeds of Scotland. The word "Galloway" is derived from Gallovid, which in old Scot signifies "a Gaul." Noted frequently by historians for their thick, woolly hides and their hornless condition, Galloway emerged as the beef breed of choice in the 15th and 16th Centuries and continued to dominate England's and Scotland's beef trade for hundreds of years.  The first Galloway came to Canada in 1853, and registration of these cattle began in 1872. Exactly 10 years later, during the Fat Stock Show in Chicago, Galloway breeders formed the first Galloway registry in the United States.


Gelbvieh (pronounced Gelp-fee, German meaning "yellow cow") were developed in the three Franconian districts of the Northern Bavaria region of Germany in the early 19th century. The "red-yellow Franconian cattle" were developed from several local strains including the Celtic-German Landrace and Heil-Brown cattle. Thus, with stringent sire testing and planned mating programs, Gelbvieh were moulded into a superior dual purpose animal for beef and milk production.  They were first imported into the United States in 1971.


The Isle of Guernsey, a tiny island in the English Channel off the coast of France, is the birthplace of the Guernsey cow. About 960 A.D., besieged by buccaneeres and sea rovers, the Island came to the attention of Robert Duke of Normandy. He sent a group of militant monks to educate the natives to cultivate the soil and defend the land. The monks brought with them the best bloodlines of French cattle -- Norman Brindles, also known as Alderneys, from the province of Isigny and the famous Froment du Leon breed from Brittany -- and developed the Guernsey.  Introduction of the Guernsey to America occurred around September 1840, when Captain Belair of the Schooner Pilot brought three Alderney cows to the port of New York. Later, Captain Prince imported two heifers and a bull from the Island. These animals were the original stock of a great majority of the Guernseys that make up the national Guernsey herd today.


The Hereford breed of beef cattle was established near Hereford, county of Herefordshire, England, nearly 300 years ago as a product of necessity. Thrifty, enterprising British farmers were seeing the need to produce beef for the expanding food market created by Britain's industrial revolution. To successfully meet this growing demand, these early-day cattlemen needed cattle which could efficiently convert native grasses to beef, and do it at a profit.  Benjamin Tomkins is credited with being a primary founder of the Hereford breed. He began in 1742 with a bull calf from the cow Silver and two cows, Pidgeon and Mottle, inherited from his father's estate.  Herefords came to the U.S. in 1817 when statesman Henry Clay of Kentucky made the first importation of a bull and two females.


The Highland Cattle Breed originated in the Highlands and west coastal islands of Scotland, areas severe in climate and lashed by the North Atlantic gales. Throughout the long recorded history of Highlands, breeders have taken great care to retain the original characteristics of these cattle. Originally, the breed was divided into two classes, the West Highlands or Kyloe, and the Highlander.  The Kyloes, raised on the western islands of Scotland, tended to be of a smaller size and had a higher percentage of black and brindled cattle than the mainland Highlanders. The size difference was probably due more to the severe climate and limited rations that the island cattle were subjected to than to any genetic variation between the classes. Today all members of the breed are called Highland.


The Holstein breed originated in The Netherlands close to 2,000 years ago. The black cows and white cows of the Batavians and Friesians were bred and culled to produce cows that made the best use of limited land in the Rhine Delta region by producing the most milk. Eventually these animals evolved genetically into the efficient, high producing black and white dairy cows known as the Holstein-Friesian.  


Jersey cattle originate from Jersey the largest Island in the Channel Islands and just some 14 miles away from the French coast.  There are fewer than 6000 Jerseys on the Island in total with nearly 4000 of these being adult milking cows. The purity of the breed on the Island is maintained by a strict ban on imports. This ban has been in place for some 150 years. There are no other breeds of the cattle on the Island.  The Jersey shares a common ancestry with not only the Guernsey breed but also those cattle found on the Normandy and Brittany coasts.


Limousin cattle breed originated in the high, rocky Aquitaine region of France. For centuries the area was isolated from the rest of Europe by political strife. As a result Limousin cattle have long been range animals, bred and selected for outstanding meat qualities and have adapted to survive in harsh conditions.


Australian Lowline Cattle were developed from the Angus herd which was established at the Trangie Research Centre in 1929 to provide quality breeding stock for the NSW cattle industry.


The Maine-Anjou breed originated in the northwestern part of France.  At the beginning of the 19th century, the cattle in this region were large, well-muscled animals with light red coats spotted with white. These cattle were known as the Mancelle breed.  In 1839 the Count de Falloux, a landowner, imported Durham cattle from England and crossed them with the Mancelle. The cross was extremely successful.  In 1908 the Society of Durham-Mancelle Breeders was formed at Chateau-Gontier in the Mayenne district. In 1909 the name was changed to the Society of Maine-Anjou Cattle Breeders, taking the name from the Maine and Anjou river valleys.


The Marchigiana  Cattle Breed was is a Podolica-origin breed descended from the Asiatic cattle that reached Italy during the fourth century AD following the barbarian invasions. In order to improve the original stock, the Marchigiana was crossed with the Chianina and then with the Romagnola. In 1928, all types of crossbreeding were stopped so that the breed's extrinsic traits could be fixed through morphological and functional selection.


The Milking Shorthorn breed  was established in the 18th century in Northwestern England, in the Valley of the Tees River bordering the counties of Durham, Northumberland and York. Bates and Booth established a "dairy-type" strain of Shorthorns on their farms in the region, and that strain has remained until this day.


The Montbeliarde breed belongs to the Jura mountains branch of Continental European Red and White breeds. Its birthplace is in Franche-Comte, on the high plateau of the Jura.


The Murray Grey Breed was developed in Australia during the last century, and first imported to the United States in 1970.  It combines the best traits of its parent breeds into a very unique, all beef breed. Murray Grey cattle have the excellent temperament, thriftiness and meat tenderness of the Shorthorns and the marbling traits of the original Scotch Aberdeen Angus. Not polluted with Euro-dairy blood,the Murray Grey is one of the few true beef breeds still working in North America.


For several centuries, farmers from Normandy, & North western France, have developed a very special kind of cattle. Raised on rough forage and pastures, the Normande Cattle Breed emerged as a distinct breed last century and its Herd-Book was established in 1883. Already famous for exceptional beef, butter and cheeses, the Normande quickly became one of the main French breeds. Today, with close to a million cows, the tri-colored Normande (red, brown, white) is the second dairy breed in France Exports of the breed go back to last century when South America, most specifically Colombia, started what proved to be a steady relationship.


One of the oldest beef breeds in France. The Parthenaise, is derived from cattle that for centuries have been found in Western France and Brittany where they are used to produce high quality lean meat sought after by today's consumer.


Piedmontese have an interesting history that began in the secluded Piedmont region of northwest Italy, an area naturally protected by the Alps mountain range. This area was populated with an ancient Euorpean breed of cattle known as Auroch [Bos Primigenius]. Descendants of the Aurochs and other domestic Euproean cattle common to the more temperate zones belong to the species of bovine known as Bos Taurus.  Approximately 25,000 years ago another breed of cattle, known as Zebu [Bos Indicus], common in tropical areas such as India and Africa, began a massive migration from Pakistan.  These two distinct breeds, the Auroch and the Zebu, blended and evolved in the harsh mountain terrain over thousands of years to become the Piedmontese breed. In 1886, it was the appearance of double-muscling in Piedmontese cattle that attracted the attention of breeders, who had the foresight to recognize the enormous potential of this development.


About 500 AD, Alpine herdsmen, who ran their cattle on small, widely scattered, rocky pastures, began to develop a breed of red and white cattle from the native red Bavarian cattle. These early cattlemen selected animals that could withstand the harsh conditions and still produce meat and milk. Farmers in the highly productive valleys and other lush areas of Bavaria developed larger, brown and spotted (or "flecked") breeds of cattle from this native seedstock, and the Pinzgauer was born. As history progressed, Pinzgauer attained their present form and color.  The Pinzgauer name stems from their origination in the Pinzgau valley in Salzburg, Austria as descendents of the European mountain breeds.


It is said that the ancestors of the Romagnola came to Italy in the fourth century with the Goths who migrated from Asia Minor into the fertile Romagna area along the west coast of the Adriatic Sea. These wanders brought all their possessions with them, including their cattle.  It is also said that the origin of the Romagnola breed were the Bos Taurus Macroceros (long-horned aurochs) that were native to the steppes of Eastern and Central Europe. But modern DNA testing has shown that all the breeds in the Romagna area have an underlying strain of Bos Indicus in their makeup. Probably, the Goths, in wanderings, at some time, passed through Northern India where their cattle interbred with a cattle native to that area. In all likelihood, those native cattle were the ancestors of the modern Nellore strain of Indu cattle.


Salers originated in the south central region of France - the Auverne, in the heart of the volcanic area of the Massif Central. This isolated, mountainous area is noted for its rough terrain and harsh climate.  The topography and climate limitations allow little cereal grain production in the Salers region. Thus, Salers have become foragers with BRED-IN RANGE-ABILITY to utilize, almost entirely, native grasses in summer and hay in winter.  Bred for centuries in this isolated area, the breed has been far removed from any outside genetic influence and is considered to be one of the oldest and genetically pure of all European breeds.  In 1840 the breed took its name from the small medieval town of Salers.


In 1986 the Salorn Breed was officially established, with precise qualifications for foundation of the new breed.  Consisting of 5/8 Salers and 3/8 Texas Longhorn, a purebred Salorn is achieved only as the second generation of the 5/8 - 3/8 cross.


The Santa Gertrude breed was created on the King Ranch in South Texas by cross breeding Shorthorns with Brahmans from 1920 to the mid- 1930s.  By the mid-1930s, the King Ranch's Santa Gertrudis herds had grown to the extent that they could let their neighbouring ranchers have a few bulls and a breed was born.


The Shetland Cattle Breed has an ancient lineage, thought to date back to the cattle the Vikings brought to the Shetlands Islands in the period 700-1100 AD, although since the Vikings were great travellers, there have undoubtedly been other influences.


About 225 years ago in Durham County in North East England, the Shorthorn breed had its founding. A Mr. Colling selected a bull at a sale and mated him with his brothers newly acquired expensive cow - "Dutchess". The progeny were the basis of a new breed with desirable traits - larger frames, powerful and docile oxen. They were claimed to be of superior mothering qualities and produced above average quantities of milk.


Simmental is an influential breed of cattle whose history dates back to the Middle Ages. Early records indicate that Simmental cattle were the result of a cross between large German cattle and a smaller breed indigenous to Switzerland. The name Simmental is derived from the name of the area where the cattle were first bred - the Simme Valley..


South Devons originate from the counties of Devon and Cornwall in Southwest England where they have been a distinct breed since the 16th Century. They are the largest of the British breeds and are not related to Devon cattle which are also from England. Over 100 years of selection for performance have given the South Devon its outstanding qualities of beef and maternal characteristics.  The first South Devons were brought to the United States in 1969 and in 1974.


The Tarentaise (pronounced "TAIR" en taze) breed's home is in the rugged Savoie region of France, site of the 1992 Winter Olympics.  It surprises most people to discover that in France the breed is not dual-purpose, but is used solely for milk production for the making of Beaufort, a Gruyere-type cheese.


The Texas Longhorn Cattle Breed became the foundation of the American cattle industry by claiming first rights in the untamed, newly discovered Americas a little over 500 years ago. In 1493, Christopher Columbus brought Spanish cattle to Santa Domingo, and within two hundred years their descendents would be grazing the ranges of Mexico.  In 1690, the first herd of cattle, only about 200 head, were driven northward from Mexico to a mission near the Sabine River-a land that would become known as Texas. The early missions and ranchers would not survive all of the elements. But the Texas Longhorn would.


The word Wagyu refers to all Japanese beef cattle ('Wa' means Japanese or japanese-style and 'gyu' means cattle).  The dominant black Wagyu strains are Tottori, Tajima, Shimane, and Okayama. Tajima cattle, bred in the Tajima region, were originally chosen and bred for their heavy forequarters because their primary use was to pull carts. They tend to be smaller and less heavily muscled than the Tottori breed. Tottori cattle, because they were used as pack animals for the grain industry of the Tottori region, were selected for their size and strength of topline.


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Last modified: March 22, 2012