Shorthorn Cattle Facts, Profile, and Characteristics

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Introduction To Shorthorn Cattle Breed:

The Shorthorn cattle breed originated on the northeastern coast of England in the countries of Northcumberland, Durham, York, and Lincoln. These countries all touch the North Sea and lie between the Cheviot Hills and the middle of England. The first real development of the cattle breed occurred in the valley of the Tees River about 1600. These large framed cattle became called as Teeswater cattle. Shorthorn cattle also called Durham. The first real development of the Shorthorn cattle breed took place in the valley of the Tees River. This river, the valley of which is so well known in the development of the breed, lies between Durham and York countries, and the large cattle that inhabited this fertile valley early known as Teeswater cattle.

The Shorthorn cattle breed is found in practically every country of the world. The Shorthorn cattle breed is very well adapted to a wide range of climatic conditions. They have huge longevity, and this feature helps the farmers not to worry about the cost of head replacements. The Shorthorn cattle breed coordinated in the North East of England in the late 18th century.

The breed was developed as a dual purpose, suitable for both milk and beef production; however, there were always certain bloodlines within the cattle breed which emphasized one quality or the other.

History of Shorthorn Cattle:

The Shorthorn was imported to the United States in 1873. They were the first purebred cattle breed recorded to have been used in the improvement of the Texas Longhorn. The Shorthorn breed had its origins in the English valley of the Tees. It can be traced back to earlier than 1750, though the modern version has been greatly improved. Known as both the Teeswater and the Durham, the Shorthorn was initially bred as a dual purpose cattle breed. Robert and Charles Colling, called the founders of the breed, were the first to systematically breed the Shorthorn. Through their efforts a more consistent herd of cattle breed was developed. The breed took a division between emphasizing beef or milking abilities via contemporaneous breeding programs.  Thomas stressed the beef qualities in his program, developing an animal of strong constitution that could easily put on fat. Thomas Bates focused on the milking feature of the Shorthorn with such success that present day milking strains descend from his cattle.

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Typical Shorthorn breed characteristics of Shorthorn:

Shorthorns are either red color, red and white, white or roan, the last named color being a very close mixture of red and white, and found in no other breed of cattle. They can be horned or polled and are extremely docile in nature. The Shorthorns are moderately framed at approximately 142cm and 635-990kg and have comparatively small calves that are vigorous at birth and easy to raise. These hardy breed cows recover speedily and are in the condition to rebreed earlier. The wide genetic base results in differing maturity patterns, enabling producers to select the Shorthorn cattle breed type best suited to their environment and market. They have high fertility and very good mothering ability, and generally have a docile temperament. They finish readily on high quality pastures and are noted for their good marbling characteristics when finished on grain.

The Shorthorn cattle breed are large animals and usually with a mix of red, white or roan coat color. But there is a type of this breed which is consistently white color. The animals are basically polled naturally. The Beef Shorthorn cattle breed is bigger than the Milking Shorthorn. Feet and leg structure of these animals are good quality with very few problems. The average body weight of the Shorthorn bulls is about 1000 kg. And the Shorthorn cows on average weight around 800 kg.

Shorthorn Cattle Breed Profile:

Breed NameShorthorn.

Breed Purpose: Milk, and Meat.

Special Notes: Hardy, strong, fast growers, well adapted to a wide range of.

Climatic conditions, excellent grazing abilities, easy to handle.

Breed Size: Heavy.

Weight: Bulls: Around 1000 kg.

Cows: Around 800 kg.

Climate Tolerance:  All Climates.

Coat Color:  Mainly red, white or roan.

Milk Yield: Good.

Country/Place of Origin: England.

Distribution of Shorthorn Cattle:

The Shorthorn breed was originally established in the temperate, more reliable rainfall areas, but by 1890 its beef genetics accounted for 50% of the cattle in temperate climates and 100% of cattle running in difficult northern environments.

The breed developed from Teeswater and Durham cattle originate in the North East of England. In the late 18th century, the Colling brothers, Charles and Robert, started to improve the Durham cattle breed using the selective breeding techniques that Robert Bakewell had used successfully on Longhorn cattle. Today the breed is found mostly in English speaking countries, and South America. The main countries are Argentina, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom, USA, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe.


Shorthorn cattle were used as a dual purpose animal. They are good dual purpose cattle breeds which are good for both milk and meat production. Although, certain bloodlines within the cattle breed always emphasized one quality or the other, either milk or meat.

Read: Cattle Feed Information.

Breed characteristics:

Shorthorn cow milk has the most favorable protein-fat ratio of the dairy breeds which is an added plus when marketing your milk for cheese. Shorthorns can be successfully crossed with every other dairy breed to quickly incorporate the Dairy Shorthorn-related grazing traits. Although no Shorthorn bulls can be completely trusted, Dairy Shorthorns tend to be quieter than other dairy bulls and fit well where a bull is used to get cows settled.

Shorthorn cattle are also well-known for their structural soundness and longevity. Cows are productive for 5 or more lactations, and several cows have produced in excess of 10,000 kgs per lactation at greater than ten years of age. Shorthorns have few problems with feet and legs, allowing the producer to cut out the expenses of lost milk production, veterinary bills, and replacement animals due to feet and leg difficulties. Both cows and heifers are easy calvers and superb mothers, substantially decreasing calf mortality or unthriftiness.

Calving Ease – All cattlemen agree, more live calves at birth means many calves at weaning. Shorthorn cross females calve unassisted 98 percent of the time. Shorthorn cattle, calves average 85 pounds at birth; therefore reasonable birth weights result in calves having a higher potential for growth.

Fertility Iowa State University research has stressed that reproductive efficiency is hundred times more important to economical viability than selection for carcass traits. Shorthorn bulls are aggressive breeders, and are an ideal selection for use in rotational crossbreeding programs for high conception rates with minimum maintenance. Shorthorn breed heifers have proved to be among the earliest to reach puberty at 359 days.

Growth ability – Shorthorn bulls and females readily transmit the ability to grow speedily and efficiently.

Crossbreeding – Crossbreeding with Shorthorn cattle breed offers increased calving ease, docility, fertility, growth and carcass quality.

Cost of Shorthorn:

The cost depends on milk production, age, lactation status and pregnancy status.

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  • Good efficient converter of feed to milk, especially pasture and other forages, lowering feed cost.
  • Shorthorn cows producing in excess of 9000 kgs of milk per 305 days on low input management.
  • Superior feet and leg structure, with outstanding hoof durability.
  • Better reproductive efficiency, with fewer days open, higher non-return rate of cows and heifers, and smaller calving intervals, meaning less wasted time and expense to the breeder.
  • Ease of calving and superb mothering ability – most cows require no calving assistance.
  • Improved longevity, with the majority of Shorthorn cows lasting more than 5 lactations.

Milk production of Shorthorn Dairy Cow:

The Shorthorn cows are very good milk producers. On average Shorthorns produce around 8000 kg of milk per lactation, and their milk also has a decent ratio of protein against fat.

Advantages of Shorthorn Cattle:

  • Good mothering ability.
  • Shorthorns have good disease-resistance and immune systems.
  • These are docile, and easy to milk.
  • The Shorthorn cattle breed is very well adapted to a wide range of climatic conditions.
  • Shorthorns are popular for their weight gain efficiency and suitability of the low input system.
  • They have large longevity, which helps farmers who worry about the cost of herd replacements.
  • Shorthorn cattle have no problems with the Irish weather.

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