Angus cattle

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"Black Angus" redirects here. For the steakhouse, see Black Angus Steakhouse.
Angus Cattle
A black angus bull seen here side on
A black angus bull viewed from the side
Conservation status Least Concern
Other names Aberdeen Angus


Country of origin Scotland
Distribution Europe and Australasia
Use Beef
Weight Male: 850 kg
  Female: 550 kg
Coat Black or Red
Horn status Polled
Bos (primigenius) taurus

Angus cattle, known as Aberdeen Angus in most parts of the world, are a breed of cattle commonly used in beef production. They were developed from cattle native to the counties of Aberdeenshire and Angus in Scotland.[1]

Angus cattle are naturally polled and solid black or red although the udder may be white. The native colour is black, but more recently red colours have emerged.[2] The UK registers both in the same herd book, but in the US they are regarded as two separate breeds – Red Angus and Black Angus. Black Angus is the most common breed of beef cattle in the US, with 324,266 animals registered in 2005.[3][4] In 2014, the British Cattle Movement Service named Angus the UK's most popular native beef breed, and the second most popular beef breed overall.[5]



Aberdeen Angus cattle have been recorded in Scotland since at least the 16th century in the country's North East.[6] For some time before the 1800s, the hornless cattle in Aberdeenshire and Angus were called Angus doddies. In 1824, William McCombie of Tillyfour, M.P. for South Aberdeenshire, began to improve the stock and is regarded today as the father of the breed.[2] Many local names emerged, including doddies or hummlies. The first herd book was created in 1862, and the society was formed in 1879. This is considered late, given that the cattle gained mainstream acceptance in the middle of the eighteenth century. The cattle became commonplace throughout the British Isles in the middle of the 20th century.[7]


Angus cattle were first introduced to Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen's Land) in the 1820s and to the southern mainland in 1840. The breed is now found in all Australian states and territories with 62,000 calves registered with Angus Australia in 2010.[8]

United States[edit]

On 17 May 1873, George Grant brought four Angus bulls, without any cows, to Victoria, Kansas. These were seen as unusual as the normal American cattle consisted of Shorthorns and Longhorns, and the bulls were used only in crossbreeding. However, the farmers noticed the good qualities of these bulls and afterwards, many more cattle of both sexes were imported.[9]

On 21 November 1883, the American Angus Association was founded in Chicago, Illinois.[10] The first herd book was published on March 1885.[9] At this time both red and black animals were registered without distinction. However, in 1917 the Association barred the registering of red and other colored animals in an effort to promote a solid black breed.[11]

The Red Angus Association of America was founded in 1954 by breeders of Red Angus cattle. It was formed because the breeders had had their cattle struck off the herd book, for not conforming to the changed breed standard regarding colour.[11]


A separate breed was cross bred in Germany called the German Angus. It is a cross between the Angus and several different cattle such as the German Black Pied Cattle, Gelbvieh, and Fleckvieh. The cattle are usually larger than the Angus and appear in black and red colours.[12]


Because of their native environment, the cattle are very hardy and can survive the Scottish winters, which are typically harsh, with snowfall and storms. Cows typically weigh 550 kilograms (1,210 lb) and bulls weigh 850 kilograms (1,870 lb).[13] Calves are usually born smaller than is acceptable for the market, so crossbreeding with dairy cattle is needed for veal production.[13] The cattle are naturally polled and black in colour. They typically mature earlier than other native British breeds such as the Hereford or North Devon. However, in the middle of the 20th century a new strain of cattle called the Red Angus emerged.[14][15] The United States do not accept Red Angus cattle into herd books, but the UK and Canada do.[15] Except for their colour genes, there is no genetic difference between black and red Angus, but they are different breeds in the US.[15]

The cattle have a large muscle content and are regarded as medium-sized. The meat is very popular in Japan for its marbling qualities.[16]

Mixed herd of Black and Red Angus

Genetic disorders[edit]

There are four recessive defects that can affect calves worldwide. A recessive defect occurs when both parents carry a recessive gene that will affect the calf. One in four calves will show the defect even when both parents carry the defective gene. The four recessive defects in the Black Angus breed that are currently managed with DNA tests are: Arthrogryposis Multiplex (AM), referred to as curly calf, which lowers the mobility of joints; Neuropathic Hydrocephalus (NH), sometimes known as water head, which causes an enlarged malformed skull; Contractural Arachnodactyly (CA), formerly referred to by the name of "Fawn Calf Syndrome", which reduces mobility in the hips; and Dwarfism, which impacts the size of calves. Both parents need to carry the genes for a calf to be affected with one of these disorders.[17][18][19] Because of this, the American Angus Association will remove the carrier cattle from the breed in an effort to reduce the number of cases.[20]

Between 2008 and 2010, the American Angus Association reported worldwide recessive genetic disorders in Angus cattle. It has been shown that a small minority of Angus cattle can carry osteoporosis.[21] A further defect called notomelia, a form of polymelia ("many legs") was reported in the Angus breed in 2010.[22] However, all animal species can carry these recessive inheritable defects.


The main use of Angus cattle is for beef production and consumption. The beef can be marketed as superior due to its marbled appearance. This has led to many markets, including Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom to adopt it into the mainstream.[16] Angus cattle can also be used in crossbreeding to reduce the likelihood of dystocia (difficult calving), and because of their dominant polled gene, they can be used to crossbreed to created polled calves.[23]

Angus calf with its mother


During the later part of 2003 and the early part of 2004, the American fast food industry ran a public relations campaign to promote the supposedly superior quality of Angus beef. However, the first of these campaigns was run by Back Yard Burger in 2002.[24] Beginning in 2006, McDonalds commenced testing on hamburgers made with Angus beef in several regions in the US. After this test, the company said that customer response to the burgers was positive[25] and began selling the burger made with Angus beef in all US locations in July 2009.[26] In response to the test in the US, McDonalds Australia began selling two Angus burgers, the Grand Angus and the Mighty Angus, using Australian-bred Angus, in their restaurants.[27]

The American Angus Association created the "Certified Angus Beef" (CAB) standard in 1978. The purpose of this standard was to promote the idea that Angus beef was of higher quality than beef from other breeds of cattle. Cattle are eligible for "Certified Angus Beef" evaluation if they are at least 51% black and exhibit Angus influence, which include black Simmental cattle and crossbreds. However, they must meet all 10 of the following criteria, which were refined in January 2007 to further enhance product consistency, in order to be labeled "Certified Angus Beef" by USDA Graders:[28]

  • Modest or higher degree of marbling
  • Medium or fine marbling texture
  • "A" maturity
  • 10 to 16 square-inch ribeye area
  • Less than 1,000-pound hot carcass weight
  • Less than 1-inch fat thickness
  • Moderately thick or thicker muscling
  • No hump on the neck exceeding 5 cm (2")
  • Practically free of capillary rupture
  • No dark cutting characteristics
  • Usually black or red in color

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 15th Ed. Vol.10 p.1280
  2. ^ a b "Oklahoma State University Red Angus breed profile". 
  3. ^ American Angus Association. "Angus - FAQs". Archived from the original on 24 September 2006. Retrieved 23 September 2006. [dead link]
  4. ^ Virginia Cooperative Extension. "Beef Cattle Breed Associations Seedstock List". VirginiaTech. Archived from the original on 2 September 2006. Retrieved 23 September 2006. 
  5. ^ "Aberdeen-Angus breed increases influence on British Beef industry" (16 March 2015). Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "Britannic Rare Breeds - Angus Cattle". Britannic Rare Breeds. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  7. ^ "The Cattle Site - Angus Breeds". The Cattle Site. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b Burke, Tom; Kurt Schaff; Rance Long (2004) [2004]. "The Birth of the Breed". Angus Legends: Volume 1. p. 17. 
  10. ^ American Angus Association. "Angus History". Archived from the original on 24 September 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2006. 
  11. ^ a b Red Angus Association of America. "History of Red Angus". Archived from the original on 24 September 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2006. 
  12. ^ "German Angus cattle information.". Interboves. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  13. ^ a b RBST. "Aberdeen Angus (Native)". Factsheet. Kenilworth, Warwickshire: Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "Encyclopaedia Britannica - Cattle Breeds". Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  15. ^ a b c "Red Angus History" (PDF). p. 2. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "New South Wales Agriculture - Angus cattle". Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  17. ^ Denholm, Laurence. "Congenital contractural arachnodactyly ('fawn calf syndrome') in Angus cattle" (PDF). NSW Department of Trade and Investment PrimeFact 1015 May 2010. 
  18. ^ Vidler, Adam, Defects on rise as gene pool drains, p. 63, The Land, Rural Press, North Richmond, NSW
  19. ^ Another genetic defect affects Angus cattle Retrieved on 29 May
  20. ^ "American Angus Association". Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  21. ^ Whitlock, Brian K. "Heritable Birth Defects in Angus Cattle" (PDF). Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  22. ^ "Denholm L et al(2010) Polymelia (supernumerary limbs) in Angus calves". 
  23. ^ "Angus". Cattle Today. Archived from the original on 17 October 2006. Retrieved 29 October 2006. 
  24. ^ "Back Yard Burgers Announces 40-Unit Development Agreement With Black Angus Burgers, Inc.". [dead link]
  25. ^ Weston, Nicole (8 March 2007). "New Angus Third-Pounders at McDonald's". Slashfood. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  26. ^ "McDonald's to debut $4 Angus burger". MSNBC / The Associated Press. Retrieved 1 July 2009. 
  27. ^ "McDonalds - Angus Beef". McDonald's Australia. 
  28. ^ "Angus FAQs". American Angus Association. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 

External links[edit]

Breed associations[edit]

Unless otherwise stated, the associations below register both red and black animals.




New Zealand: