Most people know that there are hundreds of dog breeds, but did you know that there are also hundreds of cow breeds?
Although there are two or three cow breeds that dominate modern farming, there are hundreds of specialist cow breeds that are better suited to specific climates or terrain, or that have been specifically bred to perform a specific task or provide a special type of milk or meat.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of these exotic cow breeds, find out what they are used for, where they are found, and how they differ from more common cattle breeds.
List of Exotic Cattle Breeds
|#||Exotic Cattle Breed||Origin|
|3||Highland Cattle||Scotland, UK|
|4||Texas Longhorn||Texas, USA|
|7||Jersey Cows||Jersey, UK|
|8||British White Cattle||Great Britain|
1. Brown Swiss
The Brown Swiss is a dairy breed, originally from the Swiss Alps. Commonly found in Switzerland and France, this breed is highly prized for its high-quality milk, which has the highest protein to fat ratio of any dairy breed.
Milk from the Brown Swiss is often used in cheese production for this reason.
Brown Swiss are (unsurprisingly) brown or light grey in color, and are known for their long lives and healthy bodies.
The Chianina breed is the largest cattle breed in the world, which can weigh up to 3,800lbs (1800kgs).
Chianina were originally bred for pulling around heavy farm machinery which explains their enormous size, however now they are mostly used for meat.
Originally from Italy, most Chiannas are still found in the Tuscany region even today.
Read More: How Many Burgers can you get From One Cow?
3. Highland Cattle
Highland cattle, named after the highlands of Scotland where they originated from, are the only cattle breed with long hair.
Highland cows are raised for meat and are especially sought after in farms with low-quality grazing since highland cows can live in harsh climates, even where other breeds would not survive.
The highland cow has become a national symbol in Scotland.
4. Texas Longhorn
Texas Longhorns are known for their (you guessed it) long horns, which can grow to be a massive seven feet across.
They are usually raised for beef and are sought after by ranchers for their gentle and cooperative temperaments.
Originally from Texas, this breed is a descendant of the English Longhorn.
Read More: Do All Cows Have Horns?
The Dexter breed is the smallest western cattle breed. Dexters are roughly one third as tall as a regular Holstein-Friesian dairy cow (the popular black-ad-white dairy cows you see everywhere).
According to the Purebred Dexter Cattle Association, raising a miniature breed such as Dexters results in more beef production per acre of grazing land.
Dexters are a multi-use breed, being used for both beef and dairy.
Read More: What Colors are Dairy Cows?
6. Gyr Cattle
Gyr are not common in the US or Europe, but they are very common in India and Asia.
Gyrs have long, drooping ears and large, curved horns which make them look more like goats rather than cows.
Gyrs (and all other breeds of Brahman/Zebu cattle) have a large hump on their back, which functions in a similar way to a camel’s hump, allowing them to store water to get them through long periods of water scarcity.
Gyr are mostly used as a draught animal, used to pull heavy farm implements on hilly terrain where large mechanical machinery wouldn’t be practical.
Read More: How Strong are Bulls?
7. Jersey Cows
Jerseys aren’t super uncommon, but they still only make up 6% of dairy cattle in the US.
Jersey cows originated from the small island of Jersey in the English Channel, and were first introduced to the US in 1850.
Milk from Jersey cattle is usually used to make butter, yoghurt, cheese, and other dairy products because of the high buttermilk content in their milk compared to more common breeds.
8. British White Cattle
The British White is one of the few ancient native cows of Great Britain. Unlike many other breeds, the British White was not originally imported from continental Europe.
British White cattle are highly recognizable by their stark white bodies, and their black noses and ears.
British White are most commonly raised for beef. Their high fat content makes for high quality meat, although they are not as fast growing as more common beef breeds like Aberdeen Angus.
9. Belgian Blue
The Belgian Blue is an interesting breed, which has been carefully selected over the years to exploit a genetic defect called double muscling.
While this is of little use to cows in the wild and would be considered a defect, double muscling gives the Belgian Blues 20% more muscle than most other breeds, meaning more beef produced per single animal.
Although they come in several colors, they are instantly recognizable by their bulging, unnatural looking muscles at the top of their legs.
Unsurprisingly, they are commonly raised for beef, and have been successfully bred with other breeds including the Belted Galloway and the Angus. Belgian Blues are sometimes referred to as “super cows”.
10. Ankole Cattle
Ankole are an ancient group of cattle breeds originally from West Africa, although there are now several modern sub-variants including the Ankole-Watsui which are raised in Europe and North America.
They have the largest horns of any cattle species. With horns of up to 8 feet in length, their distinctive horns are longer than the cow is tall.
Ankole cattle are raised for both meat and milk, and their skins were traditionally used to make drums, clothing, and tools.
There are hundreds of breeds of cattle, and each have their unique quirks and features.
Every breed has slightly different properties, which make them great for different things.
For example, the protein-rich milk of the Brown Swiss isn’t great for milk, but it’s perfect for making cheese.
The small stature of the Dexter may at first seem like a drawback, until you realize they can live on much smaller farms than full-sized cattle.
I hope you found this article interesting, and there was at least one breed you hadn’t heard of before!