Origin of Breed

Charolais cattle originated in the district around Charolles in Central France. It is one of the oldest of the French cattle breeds in existence. There is historical evidence that these white cattle were being noticed as early as 878 A.D. These cattle, like other cattle of continental Europe, originally used were used for draft, milk and meat. The breed soon became regarded as a producer of highly rated meat in the markets at Lyon and Villefranche in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In 1773 after the French Revolution, Claude Mathieu, a cattle breeder from the Charolles region, moved to the Nevere province with his herd of Charolais. His herd flourished there so much in fact that the breed was known widely instead as Nivernais cattle.

The Count Charles de Bouille started one of the early influential herds in 1840. He developed a herd book in 1864 at his stable at Villars near the village of Magny-Cours. In 1882, breeders in the Charolles vicinity also started a herd book. The two merged in 1919, with the older organization taking the records of the later group into their headquarters at Nevers, the capital of the Nievre province.

Physical Description

Charolais are medium to large framed beef cattle with a deep and broad body. They are white or creamy white in color, with a pink muzzle and pale hooves. The hair coat is usually short in summer but thickens and lengthens in cold weather. Charolais are naturally horned but recently, polled Charolais have emerged as an important part of the breed. There are also Charolais cattle being bred black and red in color. They have a short, broad head and heavily muscled loins and are well suited to cross breeding purposes.

Mature bulls weigh from 2,000 to 2,500 lb. and cows weigh around 1,250 to 2,000 lb.

Defining Characteristics

Charolais bulls and females are admired for their muscling, correctness and size. Charolais have demonstrated excellent growth ability, efficient feedlot gains and superior carcass quality. Consistent, uniform quality carcasses have seen Charolais entries winning time and again at prominent carcass competitions. Their flexibility and docility makes them easy to manage and to fit into any production setting. They have a high calving ease and are very maternal. These functional cattle are have proven their adaptability in many settings.

Development in America

Soon after the First World War, Jean Pugibet, brought some of these French cattle to his ranch in Mexico. He had seen the Charolais cattle during World War I while serving as a French army volunteer and was impressed by their productivity and appearance. Pugibet arranged for a shipment of two bulls, Neptune and Ortolan, and 10 heifers to Mexico in 1930. Two later shipments in 1931 and 1937 increased the total number to 37 (eight bulls and 29 females.) Soon after the last shipment, Pugibet died and other Charolais imports were not attempted.

During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, breeders established the American Charbray Breeders Association and the American Charolais Breeders Association. Producers using other beef breed cows to produce Charolais through successive generations formed the International Charolais Association. In 1957, the American and International Associations merged into today’s American-International Charolais Association. In 1964, the Pan-American Charolais Association, whose registrations were based on performance rather than genetic content, merged into the AICA. Three years later, the American Charbray Breeders Association also merged with the AICA, bringing all Charolais-based breeds in the United States under a single breed registry.

Registry and Improvement Programs

The American-International Charolais Association is headquartered in Kansas City, MO. They provide registrations, transfers, performance data, as well as junior programs, shows and scholarships.