Limousin Beef Cattle
Records for the Limousin breed of beef cattle in the USA are maintained by the
North American Limousin Foundation.
Excerps from the NALF web site:
The history of Limousin cattle may
very well be as old as the European continent itself. Cattle found in cave drawings estimated to be 20,000 years
old in the Lascaux Cave near Montignac, France, have a striking resemblance to today's Limousin.
These golden-red cattle are
native to the south central part of France in the regions of Limousin and Marche. The terrain of the homeland has
been described as rugged and rolling with rocky soil and a harsh climate. Consequently, the growing of field crops
was very difficult at best and emphasis was placed on animal agriculture. Limousin cattle, as a result of their
environment, evolved into a breed of unusual sturdiness, health and adaptability. This lack of natural resources
also enabled the region to remain relatively isolated and the farmers free to develop their cattle with little
outside genetic interference.
During these early times of animal power, Limousin gained a well-earned reputation as
work animals in addition to their beef qualities. Rene Lafarge reported in 1698, "Limousin oxen were universally
renown and esteemed both as beasts of burden and beef cattle." At the end of their work life, these animals were
then fattened for slaughter.
Traditionally, French cattle were kept in a confinement or semi-confinement situation.
However, Limousin cattle spent the majority of their time outdoors in the harsh climate of the region. This was a
source of great pride to the breeders. The cows calved year round, outdoors, to bring in a regular source of income
and the heifers were bred to calve at three years of age. In the winter, the entire herd was outside and whatever
the season, the cattle were handled on a daily basis.
Once in the 1700s and again in the mid-1800s, an attempt was made by a small number of
French Limousin breeders to crossbreed their cattle in hopes of gaining both size and scale. In 1840, several
breeders crossbred their Limousin with oxen of Agenaise variety.
The resulting animals were taller, having more volume of muscling in their hindquarter.
Unfortunately, however, these crossbred cattle proved not to be economical as they needed a larger amount of feed
than could be provided in the majority of the region. Only near Limoges, where manure and fertilizers were
plentiful and growing field crops was widespread, did these cattle prosper.
Limousin breeders admitted their mistake and then concentrated upon improving the breed
through natural selection. A leader in the natural selection movement was Charles de Leobary and his herdsman,
Royer. Through a very tough, selective process, these two developed an outstanding herd of "purebred" Limousin.
From 1854 to 1896 the de Leobary herd won a total of 265 ribbons at the prestigious Bordeaux Competition, one of
France's finest cattle shows.
Limousin cattle made a deep impression in French cattle shows during the 1850s. The
first show wins were at the Bordeaux Fair where Limousin took second and third places. The cattle belonged to the
already mentioned de Leobary herd. Furthermore, in 1857, '58 and '59, Limousin animals topped other breeds in some
of the first carcass competitions at the farm produce competition held at Poissy, near Paris. The reputation of
Limousin as meat animals was firmly established. Today, Limousin cattle are still referred to as the "butcher's
animal" in France.