Irish Angus Cattle Society
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ORIGINS AND HISTORY

The Angus breed originated in Scotland from the small, dun-colored hornless cattle brought there in the time of the Vikings/Norsemen. These cattle bred with the native black hornless cattle in the area, and a naturally polled black breed was produced which we recognise today as the Aberdeen Angus, although these original cattle were considerably smaller than the animal we know today.

A noted breeder of Angus cattle, Eric L.C. Pentecost, offers a specific and logical explanation for the introduction of the red coloration into the Aberdeen Angus breed.

“In the seventeen hundreds, the black Scottish cattle were too light and small for the farmers of the time. In order to increase size and power, larger English Longhorn cattle were brought in and crossed with the black native polled breed. The resulting calves were all black polled animals, since black is a dominant color, and red a recessive one. However, all carried the red gene. Subsequent interbreeding produced an average of one red calf in four, in accordance with Mendel’s law of heredity”.

 

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Early in the development of the Aberdeen Angus, Hugh Watson of Keillor, Scotland decided that he liked the black animals the best and as a result started a trend. He might well have chosen red instead. Leon J. Cole and Sara V. H. Jones of the University of Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station published a paper in 1920 on "The Occurrence of Red Calves in Black Breeds of Cattle" which contained the following paragraph:

"One more point should be emphasized, namely that the red individuals appearing in such stock (Aberdeen Angus)...are just as truly 'purebred' as their black relatives, and there is no reason why, in all respects save color, they should not be fully as valuable. The fact that they are discarded while the blacks are retained is simply due to the turn of fortune that black rather than red became established fashion for the Aberdeen Angus breed. Had red been the chosen color, there would never have been any trouble with the appearance of blacks as off-color individuals, since red-to-red breeds true." The preceding paragraph shows a true appreciation of the basic strengths and quality of the reds.

EARLY ANGUS HERD BOOKS

The first Aberdeen Angus herdbook, published in 1862 in Scotland. Both reds and blacks were entered, and this practise is continuing to this very day. The Aberdeen Angus was introduced into America in the 1870s and soon attained high popularity. The first American herd books, published in 1886 and 1888 respectively, made no record as to the color of individual animals - but in 1890, of the 2,700 animal’s registered that year, records show that 22 of them were red.

TODAY

Today, Red Angus are seeing unparelleled popularity all over the world. In fact, the growing swing towards the reds is seeing a huge increase in the sales of both breeding stock and semen. This had led to the Red Angus becoming a leading beef breed in the US for semen exports. Also, numbers of Red Angus in the US have tripled from the mid 1990’s. In Canada, the number of red cattle registered has overtaken the number of black cattle, while in South Africa 70% of the Angus are red, with just 30% being black.

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WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?

Many people often wonder “What are the chances of breeding a Red Angus?” The following is a short piece on how Red Angus occur naturally as a result of various different matings.

  • Red X Red all calves will be red (even if any parent had a black parent)
  • Black (red gene carrier) X Red: 50% of all calves will be red and 50% will be black. the Reds will be pure red and the Blacks will all be red gene carriers.
  • Black (non red carrier) X Red: 100% calves will be black (red carriers)
  • Black (red carrier) X Black (red carrier): 75% of calves will be black and 25% will be red. Of the Blacks, two thirds (or 50% of total progeny) will be red carriers, and one third (or 25% of total progeny) will be non red carriers.