Heritage Cattle
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Breed Facts



Adult Weight:
1200 - 2000 lbs


Experience Level:

Forage efficient, calm temperament, productive

Heritage Shorthorn (Native)

Heritage Shorthorn (Native) video

Heritage Shorthorn farmer testimonial

The Shorthorn is likely the most famous and influential breed of cattle in the history of agriculture. It was among the first livestock breeds to be improved, during the 1700s, and had one of the first herdbooks established, in 1822.For more than a century, Shorthorns were the most popular cattle in Britain, and they were exported around the world. The story of the Shorthorn has been recorded in countless publications, and images of red, white, and roan Shorthorns dominate sporting art. Yet the rise and fall of Shorthorns is reflective of great changes in agriculture over the past two centuries.

The Shorthorn was historically called the Durham because it originated in the county of Durham. Imported Dutch cattle were crossed with native stocks and selected for performance in both meat and milk production. The breed became known early in the 1800s, especially through a traveling promotional exhibit of the famous “Durham Ox.” The Ox, calved in 1796, weighed over 3,500 pounds at ten years old and through his extensive travels he brought much acclaim to the breed. Shorthorns were first imported to America in the late 1700s, with the largest number of cattle brought in after 1820. The breed was initially concentrated in Ohio and Kentucky, a region rich in grass and corn to feed cattle, but by the end of the1800s it was spread throughout America. The Shorthorn was valued for its dairy and beef qualities and also used as a draft animal.

Dual purpose selection has been the major theme of the breed's history. Breeders have always differed in their view of the Shorthorn’s purpose, with some selecting for maximum dairy production, others favoring beef, and still others selecting for a balance of the two. At different times, one type of selection would outweigh the other, and then the tide would swing back. For example, the Shorthorn first gained value in the United States as the premiere dairy breed of the mid-1800s, though by 1900 the beef type “Scotch Shorthorns” were the most desirable.

Early in the 1900s, the breed was formally split into a beef type, called Beef Shorthorn or simply Shorthorn, and a dairy type called Milking Shorthorn. Most breeders favored selection for beef, and this trend has continued, especially with the rise of the Holstein as the dominant dairy breed. The Heritage Shorthorn (Native), despite its many fine qualities and history of dairy selection, could not compete with the quantity of milk produced by the Holstein, and the breed lost favor.

There is renewed interest in Heritage Shorthorns and they can be utilized in a variety of production models such as family cows, grass-fed beef, micro-dairying, and oxen. They are forage efficient, hardy, long-lived, and productive, with calm dispositions and strong maternal instincts. As oxen, they are a great choice for beginner drovers. The Heritage Shorthorn is medium to large in size, with cows weighing 1,200–1,400 pounds and bulls about one ton. Heritage Shorthorns are red, white, roan, or a mixture of the three, sometimes with extensive speckling. They may be horned or polled.
Heritage Shorthorns are found around the world including in their native Britain (where they are called Dairy Shorthorns) but the breed has declined globally, making Heritage Shorthorns in North America an important reservoir of this historic breed. Frozen semen dating back to the 1950s is being used to restore genetic diversity to Heritage Shorthorns in the United States.

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