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Aberdeen Angus Beef Cattle History

Updated on July 12, 2011
Aberdeen Angus Beef Cow photo credit: julieabrown1 @flickr
Aberdeen Angus Beef Cow photo credit: julieabrown1 @flickr

Beef Industry in America and the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Breed

The cattle industry helps spur the United States economy. Billions of dollars are spent each year on beef. Probably the most popular type of cattle breeds is Angus beef.

Angus cattle have no horns, and may be black or red in color. They are only used for meat. They won't be found on a dairy farm. Angus cattle are healthier than many other cattle breeds. Angus beef is lower in fat than many other types of beef, yet it is tender.

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Mouthwatering Angus Beef Steak photo: Daniel Y. Go @flickr
Mouthwatering Angus Beef Steak photo: Daniel Y. Go @flickr

Early Origins of Aberdeen-Angus Beef Cattle

The Aberdeen-Angus breed had been improved at the beginning of the nineteenth century from hornless, mostly black cattle of Scotland, in Aberdeen and Angus counties. They were known regionally as doddies. The first Angus beef farmers trace back to the middle of the 18th century.

The early background of the cattle breed is dependent upon the very first breeders and farmers. Below are the individuals who are mostly responsible for the development of the Abeerdeen-Angus beef breed.

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Founders and Developers of Aberdeen Angus Beef Cattle Bloodlines

Hugh Watson became a farmer of cattle in the early 1800s. He accumulated fresh bloodlines from throughout Scotland and proceeded to develop cattle of extremely top quality. He is considered the founder of the Aberdeen-Angus breed, and the majority of today's Angus beef cattle can be traced back to Hugh Watson's cows.

William McCombie hailed from a family of cattle ranchers and had already started dealing in  cattle when he was very young. He acquired the Tillyfour farm in Aberdeenshire during the beginning of the 1800s. There he created a herd of cattle with healthy bloodlines. The meticulously recorded inbreeding resulted in excellent cattle. He then proudly exhibited his cows throughout Great Britain and France to establish the reputation of the breed.

Sir George Macpherson-Grant came back to his inherited land at Ballindalloch in the mid 1800s. He resumed refining the Aberdeen-Angus breed for the rest of his lifetime. Both McCombie and Macpherson-Grant were members of Parliament. The Aberdeen-Angus livestock multiplied throughout the United Kingdom.

Angus Beef Cattle in America

The Aberdeen-Angus breed became more stabilized toward the end of the 1800s within North America. The United States started registering more pedigreed cows in comparison to Great Britain. The new cattle breed became popular very quickly in many different countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa. Today, these nations contain higher numbers of genuine Aberdeen-Angus cattle than England itself.

The first Angus cows to reach the United States occurred in the latter part of the 1800s. A Scotsman brought four Angus bulls to Kansas. He showed them off at a regional livestock show. Locals thought the cattles were bizarre without horns.

So,the clever Scotsman started crossing his Angus cows with the local Longhorn cattle. This created a breed that survived harsh winters much better. Angus cows started becoming popular in the United States. Thousands of the livestock started to be imported from Scotland.

Troubled Times for Angus Beef Farmers

Through the start of the 1900s, Great Britain had been regarded as the source of Aberdeen-Angus bloodlines, as well as the primary breeders. The foreign trade marketplace appeared to be a lot more worthwhile financially, and that is where the Angus breeders focused.

However, throughout this time, the cattle breed's size had been reduced, much to the dismay of the commercial suppliers in England and abroad. The 1960s brought about the import to the United Kingdom of huge, muscular work cows. Sales of this new beef were urged and level of quality ended up being pushed aside, allegedly because of the faltering economic climate.

In the meantime, the demand for rapidly growing cows had been observed around the world. The preference for Aberdeen-Angus beef cattle was quickly fading. During the mid 1900s, the cattle breed began experiencing challenging times. A bit of progress was initially successful by choosing bigger varieties amongst United Kingdom livestock,  particularly Irish bloodlines, plus some superior cattle imports from Australia.

Angus Beef Ribeyes photo: larryleenyc @flickr
Angus Beef Ribeyes photo: larryleenyc @flickr

What Saved Angus Cattle From Disappearing Into Obscurity

However, what actually saved the breed from dying out happened in North America. The first Canadian cattle imports to Great Britain were registered in the 1970s. Unable to import livestock directly from the United States of America, English cattle farmers started integrating different bulls as well as cows from Canada into their stock. In the majority of cases, these were the offspring of top performance bulls from throughout the United States. Semen and embryos were able to be imported directly from the United States.

Aberdeen Angus Beef Cattle Today

Today, the Angus cattle breed comprises Scottish pedigrees, American bloodlines, plus the British stock. This new cattle stock has fewer problems with birthing and possesses mild tempers. And it still has that recognizable marbled, tender red meat  which makes Aberdeen-Angus the favorite beef  worldwide. We all can thank those first breeders and developers of the Aberdeen-Angus breed- Macpherson-Grant, McCombie, and Watson.

photo credit: benn @flickr
photo credit: benn @flickr

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Aberdeen Angus Beef History Comments

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    • The Blagsmith profile image

      The Blagsmith 6 years ago from Britain

      A beautiful and informative hub Angela. I am currently researching a beef hub at the moment. I am not too sure what direction I am going to take but when it is finalised I will inform you if I may use a link to here, beforehand. Voted up and interesting.

    • Angela Harris profile image

      Angela Harris 7 years ago from Around the USA

      nifty@50, that is a fun bit of trivia. I actually live just a hop, skip and jump away from the actual famous Chick-fil-a cows. Yeah, I got celebrities for neighbors!

    • nifty@50 profile image

      nifty@50 7 years ago

      I think it's funny how Chick Filet uses Holstein Cows as their mascots when those are dairy cows! I guess it's because that is the breed the public is most familiar with! Oh by the way, great Hub!

    • John B Badd profile image

      John B Badd 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Angus beef is awsome. I always try to make sure my burgers or angus, but I like buffalo also.

    • 4FoodSafety profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Fontana, WI

      Fascinating - all I knew is the black cows were called Angus - had no idea. Thank you for a great Hub!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Very informative. Thank you.