If you asked a child to draw a cow for you, they would probably draw some kind of blob with four legs, two horns, a pink udder, and black and white splotches. Depending on the child, it may even be recognizable as a cow. However, cows are not all black and white, and their udders aren’t always pink either!
Cows come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and that includes dairy cows. The most common dairy breed (Holstein Friesian) is black and white, but there are brown, black, grey, and even orange dairy cows from different breeds in different parts of the world.
Each breed has its own advantages and disadvantages, and although black and white Holsteins are the most popular breed in North America, they are not the only dairy breed!
In this article, we’re going to look at different breeds of dairy cows and the different colors of hair they have, how the different colors of cows came about, and what the different colors mean.
Are Dairy Cows and Beef Cows the Same Color?
Dairy cows and beef cows can be the same color, but they don’t have to be. Some dairy cattle breeds are the same colors as some beef cattle breeds, and some are different. All breeds have their own colors and patterns and colors whether they are dairy or beef.
Let’s take a look at some examples below:
Some Dairy and Beef Cows are the Same Color:
The most popular dairy breed is the Holstein Friesian, which is the typical black and white patches color that you think of when you think of a cow. This dairy breed shares the black and white coloring with the Belted Galloway (a popular beef breed), although they have a different pattern.
Another dairy and beef color pair is the tan-colored Jersey dairy breed and the tan-colored Dexter beef cattle breed. (Dexters are also sometimes used for dairy)
Read More: Can You Eat a Dairy Cow?
Some Dairy and Beef Cows are Different Colors:
The most common dairy cattle breed is the Holstein-Friesian cattle, which is black and white. The most common beef cattle breed is the Black Angus, which (as you might have guessed) is completely black.
Another example of a beef and dairy pair with different colors are two popular breeds from France: The Charolais is a pure white breed used for beef, and the Simmental is a tan color with a white head, used mostly for dairy.
Related Article: What Happens to Old Dairy Cows?
Some Cows Within the Same Breed are Different Colors:
Inside the Aberdeen Angus breed, there are two variations. Black Angus, and Red Angus. In the UK, these two types of cattle are considered the same breed (Aberdeen Angus), whereas in the United States these cattle are categorized as two separate breeds.
Dairy Cow Breed Color Chart
Here are the six most popular dairy breeds according to the US Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, along with a brief description and their color.
|Holstein-Friesian||By far the most popular dairy breed. Produces more milk than any other breed of cow.||Black and white patches. The quintessential cow coloring.|
|Jersey||The second most popular dairy cow breed. Jerseys produce less milk than Holsteins, but their milk is more nutrient dense and highly desired for butter and cheese production.||Tan colored, sometimes with lighter patches.|
|Ayrshire Cattle||Ayrshires are extremely hardy, having evolved to withstand the rough climate of South West Scotland. They are often used in large scale commercial farming for this reason.||White, with red flecks and patches.|
|Guernsey||Guernsey cattle are larger than their cousins from Jersey, and are prized for their yellow-colored milk which is rich in butterfat.||Tan colored, sometimes with lighter patches. Similar to Jersey cows but larger.|
|Milking Shorthorn||Milking Shorthorns are popular for their ease of care. They rarely have calving problems and are efficient to feed.||Mostly red with white flecks, occasionally white with red flecks.|
|Brown Swiss||Brown Swiss produce the most desirable milk for cheese production. Milk from the Brown Swiss has the highest fat to protein ratio of any cattle breed.||Solid colored, ranging from light brown or grey to dark brown.|
Are All Dairy Cows Black and White?
According to the latest annual survey from the US Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, Holstein-Friesian cattle make up almost 80% of all dairy cattle in the United States.
Since Holsteins are black and white, it’s fair to say that most dairy cattle are black and white since most dairy cattle are from the Holstein-Friesian breed, however not all dairy cattle are black and white, since there are other breeds like the Jersey cow, which is brown.
What Color is a Cow’s Udder? (Is it Always Pink?)
Most often we think of a cow’s udder as being a light pink color, though that’s probably because we only usually see udders on dairy cows, which are usually from the Holstein breed which has pink udders.
Although most dairy cows are from the Holstein breed and thus have pink udders, not all cow udders are pink. Many cattle breeds have different colored udders. Mostly shades of pink or brown but occasionally black or white too.
Read More: Do All Cows Have Udders?
Angus cattle can have red or black colored udders, though we rarely see them because they are much smaller than the huge, oversized udders of dairy cows.
The British White breed of cattle has a pure white udder, the same color as their white hair.
Dairy cows come in many different colors, including white, black, brown, red, grey, and every combination you can think of.
The color of each cow only indicates their breed, and doesn’t indicate whether they are a beef or dairy cow. Some beef and dairy breeds have the same colors, while some are different.
Cows’ udders aren’t always pink. Some breeds of cow have black, white, or red udders depending on their skin and hair colors, but we don’t usually see these breeds as often compared to the famous Holstein black and white dairy cows and their pink udders.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.