The Shorthorn breed of cattle originated in the North East of England in the late 18th century. The breed was developed as dual purpose, suitable for both dairy and beef production; however there were always certain blood lines within the breed which emphasized one quality or the other. Over time these different lines diverged and by the second half of the 20th century two separate breeds had developed – the Beef Shorthorn, and the Dairy Shorthorn.
All Shorthorn cattle are colored red, white or roan, which is a beautiful combination of brown, red and white. Our Shorthorn bull, Augustus, is a handsome example of roan coloring. Completely white animals are not common; one type of Shorthorn has been bred to be consistently white – the Whitebred Shorthorn, which was developed to cross with black Galloway cattle to produce a popular blue roan crossbreed, the Blue Grey.
They are a medium size breed with a truly rectangular shape with a short, broad head and wide set eyes.
And, you guessed it, they have short horns. Shorthorns are known for their early maturity, adaptability, mothering ability, reproductive performance, hardiness, good disposition, feed conversion, and longevity.
History of the Breed
The breed developed from Teeswater and Durham cattle found originally in the North East of England. In the late 18th century the Colling brothers, Charles and Robert, started to improve the Durham cattle using the selective breeding techniques that Robert Bakewell had used successfully on Longhorn cattle. In 1796 the Charles Colling of Ketton Hall, bred the famous Durham Ox. The culmination of this breeding program was the birth of the bull Comet, bred by Charles Colling, in 1804. This bull was subsequently sold for 1,000 guineas in 1810 at the Brafferton sale, the first 1,000 guinea bull ever recorded. At the same time Cameron Jeffreys of Kirklevington and John Booth of Killesby were developing the Teeswater cattle. The Bates cattle were subsequently developed for their milking qualities, whereas the Booth cattle were developed for their beef qualities.
Animals taken to Scotland in 1817 from the Booth herd were used to produce the Beef Shorthorn breed. In 1822 George Coates published the first volume of his herd book which was the first pedigree herd book for cattle in the world. Beef Breeders’ Annual, An Inverell Times supplement, Shorthorn breed arrived with the First Fleet. Coates published the first four volumes, after which Henry Stafford took over the ownership and publishing of the herd book, retaining the name “Coates’s Herd Book”. The Shorthorn Society of Great Britain and Ireland was founded in 1874, and purchased the copyright of the Herd Book from Stafford. They have continued to compile and publish Coates’s Herd Book ever since.
The American Shorthorn Herd Book was the first to be published in the United States for any breed and was started in 1846, with the formation of the American Shorthorn Association following 26 years later in 1872. Today the breed is found mainly in English speaking countries, and South America. The main countries are: Argentina, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe. Beamish Museum in north-eastern England preserves the Durham breed.