(most common name)
local/other name (Spanish):
The Hereford started in England in the county of Herefordshire (which is on the Welsh border) during the 17th century. At that time, Hereford cattle were probably related to the neighboring breeds of South Wales (Gloucester, Welsh Black, the extinct Glamorgan) and the red breeds of southwest England (Devon, Sussex).
Documents show Lord Scudamore importing Flemish and/or Dutch bulls for his Hereford cows in 1671. This was when cattle in the Herefordshire area were being bred to be large draught oxen. Then, demand for beef increased and their breeding direction changed.
The Tompkins family was known for breeding superior draught animals. Richard Tompkins (died 1723) had a cow named ‘Silver’ and she was red with a white face. His son, Benjamin, began looking for hardy animals that could convert grass to meat more efficiently and mature early. He inherited ‘Silver’.
In 1769, Richard Tompkins’ grandson (also named Benjamin, 1745–1815) purchased two cows: ‘Pidgeon’ (grey with more white) and ‘Mottle’ (red with a mottled white face). A third cow named ‘Argent’ (coloring unknown) joined them. These three are considered to be the foundation cows of the Hereford breed we know today. Benjamin’s most important bull for breeding was ‘Silver Bull’ who could be traced back to ‘Silver’.
Although Benjamin Tompkins was not interested in fixing a color, by the end of the 1700s the animals from the ‘Silver’ family of Herefords were typically red with a white face.
It was William Hewer (1787–1873) and his family that fixed the Hereford’s color using a bull (born in 1797) named ‘Silver 540’.
By the early 1900s, Herefords were being bred to mature early and fatten fast. Their body type was compact, short-legged and wide-bodied. Their carcass had a high fat content.
For over a century (that started in the 1880s), the Hereford was the most important beef breed in Great Britain. They were also being exported and used for AI (artificial insemination) worldwide.
The popularity of the Hereford started to decline in the 1970s when demand grew for continental lean-beef breeds that had an improved feed conversion rate, faster daily weight gain (with more muscle than fat), and less offal.
So, during the 1970s, the push in Hereford breeding was for a larger size and a longer, narrower body. This was achieved through the selection and use of American Herefords, but overall it reportedly really didn’t make much of a difference in their market performance.
Most Herefords in the United Kingdom are now naturally polled. The Traditional Hereford is horned.
Herefords are a light to dark red; their crest, dewlap, underbelly, tail switch and socks are white. Because they are easily distinguishable from other cattle, they have been popular in commercial crossbreeding with dairy cows. Herefords are also usually ready for slaughter six months earlier than continental breeds.
This page was last updated on: 2020-04-24
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