History of Shorthorn Cattle
The Shorthorn breed of cattle originated on the northeastern coast of England in the countries of Northumberland, Durham, York and Lincoln. The first real development of the breed occurred in the valley of the Tees River about 1600. The large framed cattle that inhabited this fertile valley became known as Teeswater cattle.
The breed later spread to Scotland and then to America in 1783. When first brought to Virginia, the cattle were called Durham. It was the first improved breed to be imported here and the qualities that the animal possessed made it in great demand. Shorthorn's influence spread rapidly across America.
Shorthorns were popular with America's early settlers. They valued this breed for meat and milk and found Shorthorns a willing power for the wagon and plow as well. The breed followed pioneer wagons across the Great Plains and into the far west. By 1854, mid-western farmers had begun direct importations from Scotland, concentrating their efforts on Shorthorns strictly for beef production.
Even in its early history, the breed was recognized for its ability to adapt. It could be easily bred with the Spanish breed, Longhorns, brought in earlier by conquistadors. These early animals fit neatly in the time period to meet demand and needs during the early development of the beef cattle industry.
Although Shorthorns came first, mid-westerners in 1870 discovered natural hornless cattle occurred from time to time in horned herds. Thus, Polled Shorthorns were discovered and were the first major beef breed to be developed in the United States, having gained its origin in 1881 in Minnesota. Polled Shorthorns possess the same qualities for adaptability, mothering ability, reproductive performance, good disposition, feed conversion, longevity and popularity as their horned counterparts.
In 1822, the first Herd Book record was established by Shorthorn breeders and was called the Coates Herd Book. The American Shorthorn Herd Book was the first to be published in this country for any breed and was started in 1846, with the formation of the American Shorthorn Association following 26 years later in 1872.
Breeders formed the organization wishing to provide a service for its members and a way to record ancestry through the registration of Shorthorns. The shorthorn breed has one of the oldest American breed organizations in existence today. Shorthorns and Polled Shorthorns are registered in the same Herd Book. Over 45 other breeds of cattle show traces of Shorthorn/Polled Shorthorn in their parentage, including Santa Gertrudis, Angus, Red Angus, Charolais, Gelbvieh, Beefmaster, Maine-Anjou and Milking Shorthorns.
The American Shorthorn Association has an Appendix Registry (AR) program that has been ongoing since 1973. The intent behind the Appendix Registry Program has been to promote and verify the Shorthorn influence in the commercial ranks. This program has strengthened the American Shorthorn influence by increasing numbers and providing additional germ plasm through the use of related and non-related breeds. The American Shorthorn Association is the only British breed that has an ongoing Appendix Registry Program that documents the influence of related and non-related breeds in the breed registry.
Shorthorns/Polled Shorthorns are very adaptable to the changing needs of the beef cattle industry. Cattleman are emphasizing size, efficiency and grading ability in their breeding programs and Shorthorns/Polled Shorthorns can provide that. The breed has long been know for their maternal traits, milking ability and calving ease and now the breed is excelling in growth and carcass traits as well. These results have been confirmed in unbiased, feeding tests throughout the country.
The American Shorthorn Association continues to increase membership and registrations. The current membership is approximately 2,000 adult members, with over 2,900 junior members, the highest total figure of all time for members of the American Junior Shorthorn Association. The large number of new junior and adult memberships document the growth centered around the Shorthorn breed.
Shorthorn show cattle have continued to increase their popularity and break show records within the past few years. In 2001, the Shorthorn show at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville recorded the highest number of entries and cattle shown in the history of that show. In both 2001 and 2000, the Shorthorn cattle was the most popular breed at that show in both the open and junior shows.