Origin of Breed

Criollo cattle were first brought to the New World in 1493 with Christopher Columbus’s second expedition. These cattle originated from the desert country of Andalusia, in southern Spain. Having already evolved in a hot, dry climate with scarce feed and less water, these cattle were suited to survive the ocean crossing and adapt quickly to a new environment. The conquistadores also brought Criollo cattle with them to be used for beef, milk and draft labor as they traveled areas of the western hemisphere over the next few years. Criollos soon spread rapidly across the arid and semi-arid regions of the western United States and northern Mexico. 5,000 head of Criollo cattle were brought with Onate's expedition through northern Mexico and the New Mexico area of the United States in 1593.

They flourished in a difficult environment, where they learned to utilize all available vegetation and stretch every ounce of drinking water. In villages all over Mexico and the southwest United States, each household kept a Criollo cow for milk, and meat from her calves. Each village or two shared a Criollo bull, whose job was to cover all the cows in his area. A docile temperament was critical, as the Criollos were taken out to graze each day by the village boys, on foot.

Imports since the early 1900’s have further increased the diversity of cattle breeds in the United States. It is because of this surge of new continental and exotic breeds, breeders have access to the diversity they needed Criollo now are used for new production and market niches.

Physical Description

Criollo cattle are narrow in conformation when compared to other beef breeds. Their head, neck, forequarters and hindquarters are typically well balanced. Criollo horns they come out straight and curve to the front and up a little, they are set fairly wide apart. This breed can be any color besides solid white, while the majority of this breed is black. They have a dense coat, with hair in their ears and a heavy tail switch. With their small size, agile and athletic frame, stamina, heavy horns and gentle disposition, they are in high demand as sport cattle.

Mature bulls weigh around 1000 lbs. while mature cows weigh around 800 lbs. Yearling bulls or steers weigh approximately 400 lbs.

Defining Characteristics

The Criollo breed is hardy and self-sufficient. They need little or no human intervention to thrive. They can eat a variety of vegetation and live off little food and water. Criollo can travel long distance and tolerate extreme cold, heat and drought conditions. Their longevity allows them to produce many calves in their lifetime (around 20.) A combination of their exceptional fertility and their extreme calving ease makes it easy for a large number of quality progeny. Calves have low birth weights and calving problems are virtually non-existent. Calves grow quickly, even on little resources.

Development in America

Criollo cattle were brought to the Americas in 1493. In 1593, Criollo spread with Onate's expedition through northern Mexico and the New Mexico area of the United States. Today, rodeo events such as team roping and bulldogging sparked a brisk demand for these cattle.

Registry and Improvement Programs

The American Criollo Beef Association is located in Dallas, TX.