Origin of Breed

The Shorthorn breed originated in the counties of Northcumberland, Durham, York and Lincoln, located on the Northeastern coast of England. The first real development of the breed occurred in the valley of the Tees River about 1600. These large framed cattle became known as Teeswater cattle. In the late 18th Century, Charles and Robert Colling, Robert Bakewell, Thomas Bates, and John Booth were some of the main founding breeders of the Teeswater cattle. The Bates strains were subsequently developed for their milking qualities, whereas the Booth families were developed for their beef qualities. Known as the “Universal Improver,” the importance of the Shorthorn breed in the development of other cattle breeds is enormous. Shorthorn genetics have been used worldwide in the development of over 50 different breeds. The breed has a very long and distinguished history, and developments on both the beef and dairy sides have ensured that the breed also has a very bright future.

Physical Description

Shorthorns are three colors: white, roan and red, which may be solid red or have white markings. Solid red Shorthorns are often used to help maintain solid colors in crosses. The whites and roans can be used on black cattle to get both blues and blacks. They can be horned or polled. The Shorthorn possesses a moderate frame with a rectangular low set body, with wide back and deep, wide forequarters.

Defining Characteristics

Cows are economical assets having high fertility rates, early maturation, sufficient milk, and being overall good mothers. Shorthorn cross females calve unassisted 98% of the time. Their calves are hardy, reaching excellent weaning and yearling weights. The Shorthorn brings with it high marbling traits and the ability to cross well with just about any breed. Specifically, crossbreeding with Shorthorn cattle offers increased calving ease, docility, fertility, growth and carcass quality. Shorthorns are known to mostly calve easily and be mild tempered cattle.

Development in America

The breed came to America in 1783, first to Virginia, where the breed had attained the name Durham. Shorthorns were popular with America’s early settlers and they valued this breed for meat, milk and draft purposes. In 1822, Shorthorn breeders established the first herd book record. In 1846 The American Shorthorn Herd Book was the first to be published in this country for any breed. The breed followed pioneer wagons across the Great Plains and into the far West. By 1854, Midwestern farmers had begun direct importations from Scotland, concentrating their efforts on Shorthorns strictly for beef production. Following their popularity, The American Shorthorn Association (ASA) was founded in 1872. The ASA is one of the oldest American breed organizations in existence today. The ASA records approximately 15,000 animals each year. They currently have more than 2,500 adult members and 4,000 junior members of the ASA.

Registry and Improvement Programs

The American Shorthorn Association is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. The Association provides registrations, transfers, performance data, sales and member services as well as a junior program, shows and scholarships.