The Angus may have come from abroad, but thanks to its easy temperament, hardy nature, and tender meat, it’s become the breed of choice in the American beef cattle industry. A black Angus bull is nearly as iconic as a Texas Longhorn. But how much do you know about this incredibly popular breed of cow?
In today’s article, we’ll be rounding up a list of our favorite facts about Angus cattle — from their unlikely origins to issues facing the breed today, as well as trivia about the many variations seen on this classic breed. No need to wait, let’s get right into it.
1. The Angus Cattle Breed Comes from Scotland
In the Northeastern part of Scotland — particularly the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, Kincardine, and Angus — grazing land is plentiful. Add that to a temperate climate with a moderate growing season, and you have the perfect recipe for developing a hardy and versatile breed of cattle. Named after the county in which it proliferated, the Angus cow is especially prevalent in the Strathmore area, a highly cultivated strip of land that’s ideal for growing both grazing grasses and food crops.
2. The Angus Is One of Three Hornless English Cattle Breeds
Sometimes referred to more fully as the Aberdeen Angus breed, these polled (hornless) cattle are accompanied by the Galloway and Norfolk breeds in the United Kingdom. It’s speculated that all three breeds developed from the aboriginal cattle endemic to the area, owing to their similarities in development and lack of horns. You’ll find each of the three breeds in a variety of colors, from black to white to red, tan, or spotted.
3. Angus Cattle Were First Observed Over 200 Years Ago
Our first historical record of Aberdeen Angus cattle — or, hornless cattle residing in the Angus-Aberdeen area — comes from one Reverend James Playfair, writing in 1797 that “There are 1129 horned cattle of all ages and sexes in the parish. I have no other name to them; but many of them are dodded, wanting horns.” This marks an auspicious time in the Scottish cattle farming world, as the early 1800s would be the start of selective breeding programs that have produced the black Angus cattle we know today.
4. A Famous Angus Cow Met Queen Victoria
The Birmingham and Smithfield Shows, the most highly respected area for cattle exhibition in England, was won by an Angus cow named Black Prince in 1876. After this victory, Black Prince’s reputation became so lauded that he was personally invited to Windsor Castle to be inspected by Queen Victoria herself. Later, the Queen would accept a parcel of Christmas beef from Black Prince’s carcass. This event laid the groundwork for much wider adoption of the Angus breed across the whole of the United Kingdom.
5. The First Angus Cattle in America Arrived Almost 150 Years Ago
George Grant, an enterprising Scottish rancher with dreams of fortune and fame, took the pioneering step of bringing Angus cattle to the United States in 1873. Landing in Victoria, Kansas, sadly the cattle would outlive Grant — who died just five years later, in 1878. Still, the seeds of interest in Angus beef had been planted in America. Though initially regarded with suspicion because of their lack of horns, these four Angus bulls would go on to be cross-bred with Texas longhorns to produce a large, hardy, hornless breed.
6. Angus Cattle Arrived in Australia Before America
Another major hub for beef production, Australia had a long history of ranching before the introduction of Angus cattle. The breed made a strong impression on farmers and ranchers when introduced in the 1820s, though — and was steadily adopted as the cattle breed of choice for maximum production of high quality beef. Today, the breed is found in every Australian state and territory, with over 60,000 registered calves per year.
7. Fully Grown Angus Bulls Can Weigh Nearly One Ton
The difference in weight between Angus cows (female) and bulls (male) is quite extreme — with cows averaging at 1,200 pounds while fully grown bulls can weigh upwards of 1,900 pounds! Even so, in the full scope of cattle breeds, the Angus is regarded as being only medium in size. The massive Chianina, one of the oldest known cattle breeds, occupies the heaviest end of the spectrum, with fully grown bulls capable of weighing in at over 3,500 pounds.
8. Angus Cattle Are Prone to Four Genetic Disorders
Due in part to the selective breeding requirements necessary to keep Angus a pure breed, they are susceptible to four recessive genetic disorders: arthrogryposis multiplex, which decreases joint mobility; neuropathic hydrocephalus, which causes a large and malformed skull; contractural arachnodactyly, which reduces hip mobility; and dwarfism, which reduces overall growth potential. Even so, Angus breeders’ associations will regularly perform DNA tests to ensure that disease-prone cattle do not continue to reproduce, leading to greater overall health for the breed.
9. Angus Beef Might Be the Best Beef to Eat
Across the world, Angus beef is renowned for its impressively marbled meat and flavor. Thanks to a beef industry marketing campaign begun in the early 2000s, Angus beef is widely considered to be of higher quality than the meat produced by other beef cattle breeds — which has led to the development of specific USDA guidelines for “Certified Angus Beef”. McDonald’s even got in on the Angus beef act in 2009, when following a positive reception in focus groups they began to sell a “premium” Angus burger across all of their locations.
10. There Are Angus Cattle Organizations All Around the World
It seems that everywhere this breed goes, it makes a strong positive impression on farmers and ranchers. The United States has no less than six major Angus cattle organizations, including the primary American Angus Association and Red Angus Association. Elsewhere, you’ll find Angus cattle associations in locales as far-reaching as Portugal and New Zealand — and of course, in the breed’s homeland of Scotland. If there’s grazing land to be had in a country, you can be almost certain that there’s an Angus cattle association to go along with it.