The Shorthorn Breed Of Beef Cattle
An Introduction to the Shorthorn Breed of Cattle
This cattle breed was established in England’s northeastern countryside
that includes the regions of Northumberland, Durham, York, and Lincoln. The beginnings for the Shorthorn breed
occurred in the Rees River area. The original name for the cattle was Teeswater but was later changed to the now
familiar name of Shorthorn. This English breed began to be imported and quickly became a favorite among American
ranchers. The animals were reliable, healthy, handled rough conditions well, gained weight easily, and produce a
large amount of milk. In the Western part of the US, people had very strong pro-Shorthorn feelings, particularly in
the 1800s and early 1900s. It was often extremely difficult to promote any other cattle breed no matter how fine
Northern England is reported as
being home to different breeds of cattle for hundreds of years. There was a short horned Celtic ox that
existed as early as the dates listed for the Roman invasions and later the Danes and others brought new bovines to
this fertile grazing land. Among the early English breeds were the red Somerset cattle, the “pied” Lincolnshire
specimens and Yorkshire cattle that were fairly indistinguishable from many of the European beef animals of the
The Earliest Years For The Shorthorn/Teeswater Breed
Even back in the 16th century there are records that document short horned cattle
living in Northumberland and Yorkshire. The description of the colors of these animals ranged from white to roan.
It was not until the 18th century that real animal records were first beginning to be recorded. This meant that
much of the history of English cattle has been lost.
The farmers and landowners that originally began the work of breeding the
Shorthorn, or Teeswater, animals created a foundation that could be expanded. The early years of breeding and
selection had given birth to a line of cattle that were large and strong. They had wide backs, strong forequarters
and soft, shiny coats. These original Shorthorns could also put on weight with the food they were provided.
By modern standards, there was little uniformity in their look as a
cohesive breed. Symmetry was not often found, they had narrow chests, inadequate, short rump sections, and legs
that were too long for their size. Still, even with these drawbacks, the breed was capable of strong milk
production and became a favorite of farmers.
Bakewell, The Father of Animal Breeding
Robert Bakewell was a Leicestershire farmer in the 18th century who helped to
develop Shorthorn breeds. He did not own or breed the cattle but he worked with farmers to help them understand the
importance of proper crossbreeding. Bakewell used his own long horned cattle and sheep to show how to use selective
breeding and culling techniques for maximum benefit. You may have heard Bakewell described by some as being the
“Father of Animal Breeding”.
The Shorthorn Breed Expands Thanks To The Colling Brothers
The Colling siblings are two brothers who are considered to be two of the
earliest founders for the cattle breed known as Shorthorn. They initiated a detailed and scientific breeding
program and documentation process that anyone could use. This system was constructed after the Colling Brothers had
studied Bakewell’s breeding ideas during trips to his farm.
The Shorthorn beef cattle herds from the Colling Brothers lands are the ancestors of
almost any Shorthorns found in America or England. The brothers had four bulls that they used to develop the cattle
line and these were named Foljambe, Hubback, Comet, and Favorite.
Thomas Booth Shorthorns Were Known for Weight Gain and Size
Thomas Booth and his children also had a hand in creating the Shorthorn cattle
breed. The bulls that were used by Booth came from Colling Brothers’ stock and he would ask their advice as he
expanded his own herd. Booth acquired female cows from other locations that infused new life and bloodlines into
the breed. The emphasis of Booth’s breeding efforts was directed toward size and weight gain for the animal. He was
able to develop a herd that could put on weight even in dry and extremely hostile environments. It was not long
before the Booth herd was known for sturdiness, faster weight gain, and additional size and power in the back and
Thomas Bates Adds His Influence to the Shorthorn Breed
Thomas Bates was from a well to do family in Northumberland and he eventually
studied agriculture. When he was still a very young man in his 20s, he leased large acreages and spent time
studying the Shorthorn breed. He also used many of the animals that were from the herds of the Colling Brothers but
he added other bovines to his breeding stock. Bates wanted his herd to be excellent milk producers and through much
largely because of this breeding interventions the Shorthorns of modern times are noted for their milk supply.