Hereford cattle

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Hereford cattle
A Hereford bull
A Hereford bull
Conservation statusLeast Concern
Country of originHerefordshire, England
  • Male:
    1800 lbs. (bull)
  • Female:
    1200 lbs.
  • Male:
    152 cm (59.8 in.)
  • Female:
    140 cm (55 in.)
CoatRed, white
Horn statusWhite
  • Cattle
  • Bos (primigenius) taurus

The Hereford is a British breed of beef cattle originally from Herefordshire in the West Midlands of England.[1][2] It has spread to many countries – there are more than five million purebred Hereford cattle in over fifty nations worldwide.[3] The breed was first exported from Britain in 1817, initially to Kentucky.[4] It spread across the United States and Canada, through Mexico, to the great beef-raising countries of South America. Today Herefords dominate from Australasia to the Russian steppes, including Israel, Japan, continental Europe and Scandinavia, temperate parts of Australia, Canada, the United States, Kazakhstan and Russia, the centre and east of Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and New Zealand, where they make up the largest proportion of registered cattle.[5] They are found all over Brazil[6] and in some Southern African countries,[7] notably South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Their original popularity among ranchers of the American Southwest testified to the hardiness of a breed originating in cool, moist Britain, but shown to thrive in harsher climates on nearly every continent. The World Hereford Council,[8] is based in Britain. There are currently 20 Hereford societies in 17 member-countries and a further eight in 10 non-member countries.[9] In the United States, the official Hereford organization and breed registry is the American Hereford Association, the second-largest society of its kind in the country.[10]


Grazing Hereford cattle
Hereford bull of Mr. Jeffries, winning the first prize of the 1843 Royal Agricultural Show in Derby

Until the 18th century, the cattle of Herefordshire resembled other cattle of southern England, being wholly red with a white switch, similar to the modern North Devon and Sussex breeds. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, other cattle (mainly Shorthorns) were used to create a new type of draught and beef cattle which at first varied in colour, with herds ranging from yellow to grey and light brown, and with varying amounts of white. By the end of the 18th century the white face characteristic of the modern breed was well established, as was the modern colour during the 19th century.[11]

The Hereford is still seen in the Herefordshire countryside today[12] and featured strongly at agricultural shows.[13][14][15] The first imports of Herefords to the United States were made about 1817 by the politician Henry Clay, with larger importation beginning in the 1840s.[16][17]

Polled Hereford[edit]

A Polled Hereford bull

The Polled Hereford is a hornless variant of Hereford with a polled gene, a natural genetic mutation selected into a separate breed from 1889.[18]

Iowa cattle rancher Warren Gammon capitalised on the idea of breeding Polled Herefords and started the registry with 11 naturally polled cattle. The American Polled Hereford Association (APHA) was formed in 1910. The American Polled Hereford and American Hereford breeds have been combined since 1995 under the same American Hereford Association name.[19]

In Australia the breed is known as the Poll Hereford.[20][21]

Traditional Hereford[edit]

Hereford cow and crossbred calf

Many strains of Hereford have used other cattle breeds to import desired characteristics, which has led to changes in the breed as a whole. However, some strains have been kept separate and retained characteristics of the earlier breed, such as hardiness and thriftiness.[22] The Traditional Hereford is now treated as a minority breed of value for genetic conservation.[23]


A Hereford calf in Victoria, Australia

Eye cancer (ocular squamous cell carcinoma) occurs in Herefords, notably in countries with continued bright sunlight and among those that prefer traits of low levels of red pigmentation round the eye.[24][25][26] Studies of eye cancer in Hereford cattle in the US and Canada showed lid and corneoscleral pigment to be heritable and likely to decrease the risk of cancer.[27] Vaginal prolapse is considered a heritable problem, but may also be influenced by nutrition.[28][29] Another problem is exposed skin on the udder being of light pigmentation and so vulnerable to sunburn.

Dwarfism is known to occur in Hereford cattle, caused by an autosomal recessive gene.[30] Equal occurrence in heifers and bulls means that dwarfism is not considered a sex-linked characteristic.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Breeds of Livestock - Cattle". Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  2. ^ Sanders, Alvin H. (1914). The story of the Herefords. Chicago: Sanders Publishing Company. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  3. ^ "Cattle Breeds - Hereford". The Cattle Site. 13 April 2018. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Early Chronology of the Hereford Breed 1723-1955". The Hereford Herd Book Society. 1995. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  5. ^ "Commercial Beef Cattle in New Zealand". Beef New Zealand. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  6. ^ "Associação Brasileira de Hereford e Braford". Associação Brasileira de Hereford e Braford. Archived from the original on 5 April 2015. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  7. ^ "World Hereford Council". WHC. Archived from the original on 24 April 2010. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  8. ^ "World Hereford Council". Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  9. ^ "Member and Non-Member Countries". World Hereford Council. Archived from the original on 24 April 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  10. ^ "About". American Hereford Association. 13 April 2018. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  11. ^ Trow-Smith, Robert (1959), A History of British Livestock Husbandry 1700–1900, Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp 100–103.
  12. ^ "Hereford Cattle, Ashford Carbonel (C) Richard Webb".
  13. ^ "National Hereford Show (C) Richard Webb".
  14. ^ "Here comes the judge (C) Richard Webb".
  15. ^ "National Hereford Show (C) Richard Webb".
  16. ^ Miller, Timothy Lathrop; Sotham, William H. (1902). History of Hereford Cattle: Proven Conclusively the Oldest of Improved Breeds. Chillicothe, Missouri: T. F. B. Sotham. p. 146.
  17. ^ George, Milton, ed. (1886). The Western Rural Year Book, a Cyclopedia of Reference. Chicago: Milton George. p. 247.
  18. ^ Roberts, David (1916). Cattle Breeds and Origin. Waukesha, Wisc.: David Roberts. pp. 131–32.
  19. ^ "Associations merge" Archived 3 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  20. ^ "Cattle breeds: Poll hereford". NSW Department of Primary Industries. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  21. ^ Price, Jack (31 July 2019). "Red Centre cattle property Mt Skinner sold to South Australian family for almost $10 million". ABC News. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  22. ^ "Traditional Hereford Breeders Club".
  23. ^ "British Rare Breed Survival Trust watchlist: Traditional Hereford". Archived from the original on 20 January 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
  24. ^ H R Guilbert; A Wahid; K A Wagnon; P W Gregory (1948). "Observations on pigmentation of eyelids of Hereford cattle in relation to occurrence of ocular epitheliomas". Journal of Animal Science. 7 (4): 426–9. PMID 18891533. Retrieved 5 April 2010.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ R R Woodward; Bradford Knapp, Jr (1950). "The Hereditary Aspect of Eye Cancer in Hereford Cattle". Journal of Animal Science. 9 (4): 578–81. doi:10.2527/jas1950.94578x. PMID 14794577. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  26. ^ Gerry Watt (January 2006). "Eye Cancer in Cattle". Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  27. ^ D. E. Anderson (1991). "Genetic Study of Eye Cancer in Cattle". The Journal of Heredity. 82 (1): 21–26. doi:10.1093/jhered/82.1.21. PMID 1997589.
  28. ^ A Study of Vaginal and Uterine Prolapse in Hereford Cattle[permanent dead link] Retrieved 22 December 2009.
  29. ^ 81st Western Veterinary Conference: Medical and Surgical Management of Vaginal Prolapse in Cattle Archived 15 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 22 December 2009.
  30. ^ W. H. Smith and L. A. Holland. "Dwarfism in Beef Cattle". Dwarfism in Beef Cattle. Proc. Of 41st Annual Livestock Feeders' Day, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS. N.p.: Kansas Agricultural Experiment Salon, n.d. 34-38. Kansas State University Libraries. Web. 3 November 2016. <>.
  31. ^ Jan M. Jones and R. D. Jolly. "Dwarfism in Hereford Cattle: A Genetic Morphological and Biochemical Study." New Zealand Veterinary Journal 30.12 (1982): 185-89.

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