Cows are some of the most common domesticated animals and they were traditionally one of the most important animals at the service of man.
There are currently more than 250 recognized types of cows, and in this article, we’ll be learning about the most common and the most interesting ones.
- Holstein Cattle
- Dexter Cattle
- American Brahman Cattle
- Afrikaner Cattle
- Ankole Cattle
- Boškarin Cattle
- Aberdeen Angus
- Red Angus
- Texas Longhorns
- Tudanca Cattle
- Spanish Fighting Bull (Toro Bravo)
- Shetland Cattle
- Zebu Cattle
- Galloway Cattle
- Montbéliarde Cattle
- Maronesa Cattle
The scientific name for all cattle is Bos taurus, as they’re all the same species but with many different breeds within the species (just like dogs).
1. Holstein Cattle
Holstein cattle are by far the most common breed of cattle in the world – they are found in more than 150 countries and they’re the biggest producers of dairy in the world. They’re instantly recognizable by their black/red and white markings.
An adult Holstein cow can weigh up to 1,500 pounds (except for extremely large individuals), and they’re usually dehorned as calves.
This breed comes from the Netherlands and they were quickly imported to countries around the entire world as they’re excellent producers of dairy products.
2. Dexter Cattle
A contrast to the massive size of the Holstein cow, Dexter cattle are only about 1/3 of their size. They were originally bred in southern Ireland where they often roamed the wild without any shelter.
Today, however, this breed is in a much better state, as it’s considered a recovering breed and it’s becoming one of the most popular types of cows in the UK and Ireland.
Dexter cattle usually weigh less than 1,000 pounds, but they ideally weigh less than 750, while there are some differences between long-legged and short-legged Dexter cattle. They’re usually entirely black, but there are red individuals.
What sets this breed apart is milk production – despite their physical inferiority, they produce more milk in regard to their own weight than any other breed in the world.
This makes them popular for people who produce their own dairy products – they don’t require much care or space, and they give a lot in return.
3. American Brahman Cattle
American Brahmans are easily recognizable because of their characteristically long ears and a hump between the shoulders, while the horns are known to curve backward.
Aside from being very popular in the United States, they’re originally from India, where they’re worshiped as deities; it’s not allowed to sell, buy, slaughter them or eat their meat in some places.
Brahman is a very adaptive breed, as they can withstand both very low and very high temperatures. They’re also very intelligent (actually one of the most intelligent types of cows) and affectionate – they can be won over easily and become docile.
4. Afrikaner Cattle
This breed of cattle is found in South Africa, where it was primarily used for dairy products and meat, but later on, became draught animals. Soon enough, breeders began to breed them specifically for wagon dragging.
The Afrikaner cattle is a massive, muscular breed. Cows usually weigh more than 1,150 pounds, while bulls can weigh more than 2,000 pounds.
Despite their size, they’re well adapted to the hot African climate. These types of cows in Africa are easily recognized by their upwards-turned horns.
5. Ankole Cattle
Another type of African cattle, the Ankole cattle are found in East and Central Africa. There are five regional subbreeds: Bahima, Bashi, Kigezi, Ruzizi, and Watusi.
They usually have very long horns turned upwards, while the fur is mostly red.
Ankole cattle don’t produce much milk, and they’re not used for meat or wagon pulling either. Instead, they’re status symbols in tribes and they’re highly regarded for ceremonial functions.
6. Boškarin Cattle
Found only in Croatia (with very small numbers in Slovenia), Boškarin cattle is predominantly bred for dairy and meat products. They were once almost extinct, but the population is currently on the rise.
Both cows and bulls are muscular, which is why they were also used for transport and fieldwork. A bull can weigh more than a metric ton, while cows weigh half that much. They’re usually gray, and their tongue is characteristically blue and gray.
7. Aberdeen Angus
This breed originated in North-eastern Scotland, but it has spread all around the world and they’re currently found in Europe, North America, Australia, and Argentina.
These types of cows in Scotland are praised for their hardiness, as they can withstand extremely low temperatures.
They’re mainly used for dairy products and meat production, but are rarely used as working animals (bulls rarely weigh more than 1,900 pounds).
8. Red Angus
The red Angus was derived from the Aberdeen Angus, but they’re characteristically red, which is the main difference between the two breeds. Aside from that, they’re physically identical to the Aberdeen Angus.
These animals are bred for meat products and they’re rarely bred for dairy products. It took quite a while for them to be officially recognized as an outstanding species, as they were only first registered in 1917.
9. Texas Longhorns
These animals are instantly recognizable because of their characteristically long horns (hence the name).
The span of the horns can exceed 8 feet in extremely well-developed specimens, which means that they have some of the longest horns in the animal world.
Coat color varies from one animal to another, and they’re usually not recognized by it. These types of cows in Texas are almost exclusively bred for meat products, but they’re sometimes used for steer riding too.
10. Tudanca Cattle
This is a traditional Spanish breed, originally from the country’s north. They were traditionally used for transport, but they’re now bred for meat and traditional manifestations – especially stone dragging.
They’re not large animals, as the bull rarely weighs more than 1,000 pounds and the cows are almost always lighter than that. Even though there was no need for working cattle after mechanization, Tudanca cattle were recognized for their exquisite meat.
These types of cows in Spain are nowadays well-conserved and aren’t in danger of becoming extinct.
11. Spanish Fighting Bull (Toro Bravo)
These animals are only bred in Spain, Portugal, France, and a few Latin American countries, as they’re only used for bullfighting. They originated in the Iberian Peninsula and they’ve been selectively bred for their aggressive nature.
Most bulls are very large, weighing up to 1,500 pounds, usually black or brown in color. This extremely athletic breed turns to aggression when cornered, which is why they’re used for bullfighting.
These types of bulls used for bullfighting aren’t bred for anything else.
12. Shetland Cattle
Shetland cattle are indigenous to the Shetland Islands near Scotland. They’re medium-sized – the bulls can weigh up to 1,300 pounds, they have a hairy coat to help them cope with freezing temperatures, while their horns are turned upwards.
Today, they’re bred for meat products, but they were once bred because of their longevity and resistance to illnesses.
Interestingly, the meat and milk produced by these animals are much richer in nutrients than the products of most other breeds.
13. Zebu Cattle
Zebu cattle are mostly known for their high status within Hindu tradition – there are numerous legends about them, and their dairy products are used in some rituals.
These types of cows found in Asia have humps and low-hanging ears, similar to the American Brahman, and they’re found to be well-adapted to high temperatures.
Aside from their traditional significance, these animals are used as draught and riding animals, while their dairy products (and some byproducts) are used for food and various useful purposes. However, they’re not used for meat products.
14. Galloway Cattle
Another breed of Scottish cattle, the bulls can reach a metric ton in weight, rarely weighing more than that. Interestingly, these animals don’t grow horns – instead, they grow a bone knob at the top of the skull.
They’re also known for their incredibly thick coat, enabling them to survive harsh winters. In fact, the only bovine with thicker hair is the buffalo. During the summer, the coat sheds, while cattle living in warmer climates sheds it continuously.
Today, these types of cows without horns are bred almost exclusively for their meat products.
15. Montbéliarde Cattle
Mostly found in eastern France, this type of cattle is bred for their dairy products, specifically their cheese.
Even though their beef is better than that of Holstein cattle, their milk is properly balanced for cheesemaking because of the B variant of Kappa Casein and a high percentage of protein in the milk.
Bulls can weigh up to 2,600 pounds, with cows usually weighing half of that. These types of cows in France are usually white or white and brown in color (very similar to red Holsteins), with tough feet, and capable of handling rough terrain.
16. Maronesa Cattle
The final breed of cattle on the list is originally from Portugal and it is known for its draught power. They’re very muscular, with the horns pointing forwards and upwards.
Instead of dairy products, these types of cows in Portugal were traditionally used for pulling because of their sheer strength. Nowadays, these animals are used for terrain maintenance in an effort to reduce combustible material in the wild.
Cows have been traditionally used by people for meat and dairy production, as well as working animals. Some of the animals on this list are highly specialized for their respective purposes – like the Montbeliarde cattle, which specialized in cheese production, and the Spanish fighting bull, specializing in fighting shows.
Today, cows are witnessing a resurgence of interest, as there are many people investing in sustainable breeds, such as the Dexter cattle or the Shetland cattle in an effort to minimize expenses and build a more sustainable home.