The Fascinating History of Aberdeen-Angus Cattle

In the rugged and picturesque counties of Aberdeen, Banff, Kincardine, and Angus, located in northeastern Scotland, lies a rich history of cattle breeding. These counties, with their temperate climate, high-quality crops, and well-distributed rainfall, have been ideal for the development of some of the most renowned purebred cattle breeds. Among these breeds, the Aberdeen-Angus has garnered significant recognition and praise.

Origins of the Breed

The Aberdeen-Angus is one of the three distinct and well-defined breeds of polled cattle in the United Kingdom. The breed’s history can be traced back to ancient times, with hornless cattle depicted in prehistoric carvings of Aberdeen and Angus. The presence of hornless cattle in Scotland and their depictions in other ancient civilizations, such as Egypt, suggest that the Aberdeen-Angus breed and other Scottish breeds have deep indigenous roots.

Early Scottish Cattle

Not much is known about the origins of the early cattle that eventually became known as the Aberdeen-Angus breed. However, it is believed that the improvement of the original stock began in the latter half of the 18th century. The cattle in northern Scotland displayed varied color markings, broken color patterns, and both polled and horned characteristics. Over time, breeders started crossing and recrossing these strains, leading to the development of a distinct breed that possessed qualities of both strains.

The Contribution of Hugh Watson

Hugh Watson, a tenant farmer in the vale of Strathmore in Angus, is often recognized as a key figure in the development of the Aberdeen-Angus breed. In 1808, at the age of 19, Watson began his farming activities at Keillor, his family’s farm. He selected the best black cows from his father’s herd and purchased top-quality heifers and a black bull that resembled the Angus cattle he aimed to breed. Watson set his sights on breeding black cattle, and his dedication to this color preference laid the foundation for the breed’s distinctive appearance.

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One of Watson’s most renowned bulls was Old Jock, a bull that made a significant impact on the breed. Old Jock’s descendants can be traced in the pedigrees of many modern Aberdeen-Angus cattle. Watson showcased his cattle extensively and won numerous prizes, significantly contributing to the breed’s popularity.

William McCombie – The Great Preserver

William McCombie of Tillyfour, another pivotal figure in the breed’s history, played a crucial role in preserving and improving the Aberdeen-Angus. McCombie, a successful cattle dealer turned tenant farmer, possessed great foresight and introduced careful breeding and management practices. His immense success in the show ring, along with his extensive promotion of his cattle, established the Aberdeen-Angus breed’s reputation on an international scale.

McCombie’s achievements in the show ring were matched by his knack for producing quality animals. His bull Hanton and the double grandson of Hanton, Black Prince of Tillyfour, left an indelible mark on the breed, with many Aberdeen-Angus cattle tracing their lineage back to these influential animals.

The Arrival of Aberdeen-Angus in America

In 1873, George Grant transported four Angus bulls from Scotland to Kansas, marking the introduction of Aberdeen-Angus cattle to the United States. These bulls, known for their naturally hornless heads and solid black color, made a lasting impression on the American cattle industry. The crossbreeding of these bulls with native Texas longhorn cows resulted in robust, hornless black calves that thrived in the harsh winter conditions.

Growth and Development

The Aberdeen-Angus breed quickly gained recognition in the United States, with significant numbers of cattle imported directly from Scotland between 1878 and 1883. These early owners, through breeding, showing, and selling registered stock, played a vital role in establishing new herds and promoting the breed’s growth.

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Aberdeen-Angus Associations and Registries

The Aberdeen-Angus breed has gained global recognition, leading to the establishment of breed associations and registries worldwide. In Australia, the Angus Society of Australia oversees the breed’s development and promotion. In Canada, the Canadian Angus Association plays a crucial role in maintaining breed standards. Meanwhile, in the United States, the American Angus Association is the governing body responsible for preserving the breed’s integrity and advancing its interests.

The rich history of the Aberdeen-Angus breed is a testament to the dedication and passion of breeders who have tirelessly worked to improve and preserve these exceptional cattle. Today, Aberdeen-Angus cattle continue to be revered for their black color, polled nature, and exceptional beef quality. For more information about the Aberdeen-Angus breed, visit Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ.