History of the Angus Breed
The Aberdeen-Angus breed was developed in the early 19th century from the polled and predominantly black cattle of north east Scotland, locally known as “doddies” and “hummlies.” While their popularity grew in Europe, the Angus breed was not yet well accepted in America. In 1873, Scotsman George Grant imported four Angus bulls from Scotland to the middle of the Kansas prairie. When exhibited at the Kansas City Livestock Exposition that fall, the bulls were considered “freaks” because of their polled (naturally hornless) heads and solid black color. Despite this response, the forward thinking Grant crossed these bulls with native Texas Longhorn cows, producing a large number of hornless black calves that survived well on the winter range. Not only did they winter better, but they weighed more the next spring too; the first proof of the breed’s value in their new homeland. (Just a side note, even the Angus breed got its start here in the U.S. with a crossbreeding effort.)
The first great herds of Angus beef cattle in America were built up by purchasing stock directly from Scotland. Between 1878 and 1883 alone, twelve hundred cattle were imported mostly to the Midwest. Over the next quarter century these early owners help others start their own herds by breeding, showing and selling their registered stock. In November of 1883, the American Angus Association (then known as the American Aberdeen-Angus Breeders’ Association) was founded in Chicago, Illinois with only 60 members. In the first century of operation, more than 10 million head were recorded. Today, the association continues to grow with members registering over 320,000 head in 2015 alone.
Cattle producers admire Angus for their genetic ability to improve the value of commercial cattle. Angus bulls, even when mated to cows of other breeds or crossbred cows, tend to produce fewer calving problems than most other beef breeds. Also, their dark skin greatly reduces eye problems such as cancer eye as well as reduces the chance of sunburn or snow burn to the cow’s udders. In addition, as the polled gene is a dominate trait, these naturally polled cattle have the ability to “genetically dehorn” the next generation of your herd.
The Angus breed is also extremely well known for their meat quality, largely thanks to the Certified Angus Beef Program (CAB), established by the American Angus Association in 1978. The first beef breed to identify its product and market it to the consuming public; the CAB brand now spans the globe as the largest branded beef program in the world. In order to qualify for CAB, live cattle must be predominantly (51%) black with typical beef-type conformation, without dairy characteristics or evidence of Brahman influence. Carcass specifications include,
- Modest or higher marbling
- Medium or fine marbling texture
- “A” maturity for each lean and skeletal characteristics
- 10 to 16 square inch ribeye area
- Less than 1,000 pound hot carcass weight
- Less than 1 inch fat thickness
- Superior muscling
- Practically free of capillary rupture
- No dark cutting characteristics
- No neck hump exceeding 2 inches
Angus cattle have been hugely influential in today’s composite seedstock business and are a major component to SimAngus, Balancer, Limflex, Brangus as well as other designed composites. Beyond excelling in so many traits among the British breeds, they have been the perfect complement to many of the Continental breeds; making composite bulls tremendously popular and industry relevant.