History of the Shorthorn breed

There has been much written about the Shorthorn breed.  This is from a different perspective that we try to go into more detail.

As one of the oldest recognized breeds in the world, Shorthorn cattle originated from cattle of Tees-side in Northeastern England in the Valley of the Tees River and the county of Durham.  This is why the Shorthorn at first was called Durham or Teeswater.  Shorthorn stock has been documented in the middle 1600’s being in the herds of Smithson’s of Stanwick in the UK. Most of the early improvement in the breed’s development took place in the counties of Northumberland, Durham and York, first done by Charles and Robert Colling which based their work on that of Robert Bakewell.  Thomas Bates started selecting for dairy qualities of the Shorthorn which began with stock that was purchased from the Colling brothers.

In 1822 George Coates founded the “Coates Herd Book” for all types of Shorthorn cattle which the first entries in this herdbook included 710 bulls and 850 cows.  When the formation of the Shorthorn Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1874, they took over the Coates Herd Book.

The Thomas Bates herd was auctioned off in 1850 which increase interest in the type of Shorthorn cattle he had bred.  The Shorthorn was a dominant breed in The UK until 1949 when interest in the Friesian began to grow and caused the Shorthorn breed to decline.

While there are beef Shorthorn and dairy type Shorthorns, their ancestry all traced to the Coates Herd Books.

Charles & Robert Colling

Thomas Bates

The Ravenswood Farm Bull Barn

Charles Leonard of Ravenswood Farm

Shorthorns in the United States

The first importations of both dairy and beef type Shorthorns from England began in 1783 to Maryland and Virginia.  Importations continued during the early part of the 1800’s and interest in the breed began to spread across the United States.  The first herd that was established west of the Mississippi River was at Ravenswood Farm, owned by Nathaniel Leonard in Missouri in 1839.  Nathaniel’s son Charles Leonard took over and continued to build the herd of Shorthorn cattle of his father’s.  The greatest achievement of Charles Leonard is he was the breeder of the dam of Americus, a bull who sold to Argentina in 1908 for $38,000 in gold.

U.S. breeders started recording their Shorthorn animals in 1846 with the first volume American Herdbook.  The American Short-Horn Breeders Association was founded in 1882 and was for the registration and promotion of both the milking and beef Shorthorns.  The Milking Shorthorn Club (working within framework of the ASBA) was organized in 1912 for keeping official milk records to promote the milking ability of the breed.  The American Milking Shorthorn Society “AMSS” was incorporated in 1948 for the purpose of registering the dairy type Milking Shorthorns.

From researching ancestry we discovered at back in the earlier part of the 1900’s there were Milking Shorthorn cows with production over 20,000 and even over 30,000 lbs. of milk.

Shorthorn influence on other breeds

The Shorthorn breed has been used in the development of over 40 different breeds worldwide.

The Shorthorn’s influence of other dairy breeds includes the Swedish Red and White, Illawarra in Australia (this breed also include Ayrshire ancestry).  The Ayrshire breed was based on dairy-type Shorthorn cattle in Scotland.

Native and Original Population Milking Shorthorns

Since the late 1960’s the breed began what they called a breed improvement program which allowed for incorporating other breeds into the Milking Shorthorn to increase milk production.  In the U.S. breeds which were used was the Illawarra from Australia, the Norwegian Red bull K.Schie and Red & White Holsteins.

Not all breeders participated in the breed improvement program using these outside genetics.  These became known in the U.S. as Native animals, in the UK as Original Population and others call them Dual Purpose Shorthorns.  It doesn’t matter which name they go by as these animals can trace 100% of their ancestry back to the Coates Herd Books.

Worldwide the Native’s, Original Population, or Dual Purpose Shorthorn has continued to see a decline in population to the point that they have been placed on the critical list by the Livestock Conservancy in the U.S. or the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in the UK.

The future of the Milking Shorthorn breed

As we register Milking Shorthorn animals thru the Milking Shorthorn Dairy Cattle Registry, and document the breed percentages, breeders began to become concerned about the percentage of Shorthorn blood in their animals.

As other breeders registering animals began to see the low percentage, they wanted to work toward breeding a Milking Shorthorn animal with a higher breed percentage, but the first thing they needed was knowledge of the breed makeup of their animals.

Thus the Milking Shorthorn Dairy Cattle Registry was founded in 2021 to provide breeders with registrations, which documents ALL ANCESTRY, the breed makeup of animals and other relevant information such as recessive test results, milk proteins, A2 status along with other cross reference identifications.







Illawarra cow in Australia

Modern U.S. Milking Shorthorn Bull