From the big-horned Texas Longhorns, to coal-black Angus, to snow-white Charolais, to red and white Herefords, to the floppy-eared, speckled Brahmas, here is a rundown of the unique traits of five popular cattle breeds and where they originated.
Known for its namesake, the horns of a Texas Longhorn can branch out to seven feet wide. Ancestors of the breed were introduced to the New World in 1493 when Christopher Columbus landed in the present-day Caribbean Islands. As the Spanish moved north, they brought their cattle with them, and in the 1800s, Longhorns arrived in the area that would become Texas. These cattle were considered feral until domesticated in the 19th century. Texas Longhorns are known for being heat-tolerant, hardy, and rangy animals with long legs and long horns. Their hides can be various colors, including grey, black, brown, white, and speckled.
Scottish cattleman George Grant is credited for bringing four Angus bulls from his homeland to the middle of the Kansas prairie in 1873. When two of the Grant bulls were exhibited in the fall of 1873 at the Kansas City (Missouri) Livestock Exposition, some considered them “freaks.” At that time, Shorthorns were the dominant breed, so the naturally hornless and solid black Angus bulls stood out in the crowd. Between 1878 and 1883, however, the Angus breed exploded in popularity in the United States, and more than 1,200 Angus cattle were imported from Scotland during this time. Today, the Angus breed is the largest registered breed in the world.
One of the oldest of the French cattle breeds, the history of the Charolais dates back as early as 878 A.D. Charolais cattle crossed the Atlantic Ocean shortly after World War I when Jean Pugibet, a young Mexican industrialist of French name and ancestry, brought some French Charolais cattle to his ranch in Mexico. The breed was introduced to the United States in 1934. Charolais cattle are naturally horned and are white in color, but today’s breeders also raise polled cattle.
Nearly 300 years ago, English farmers founded the breed in response to increased production demands created by Britain’s Industrial Revolution. Herefords are known for being highly efficient and very fertile cattle. Benjamin Tomkins is considered the founder of the breed. In 1817, Henry Clay brought Herefords to the United States. However, true Hereford characteristics were not established until U.S. cattlemen William H. Sotham and Erastus Corning began the first breeding herd in 1840. The typical Hereford color pattern is a red body with a white face, underparts, feet, tip of the tail, and a white feather pattern on the top of the neckline.
Originally from India, the Brahman breed was developed through centuries of inadequate food, insects, diseases, and the weather extremes of the tropics. As a result, these cattle—considered sacred in India—developed remarkable adaptations for survival. Brahman cattle have a large hump over the top of the shoulder and neck, as well as curved horns, floppy ears, and excessive skin along the throat. They vary in color. They produce an oily secretion which repels insects with its odor. Although there are conflicting records, it’s believed that the first Brahman cattle were imported to the United States in 1849 by Dr. James Bolton Davis of South Carolina.