Rare Cattle Breeds

When a cattle breed has around 2000 or fewer individuals in its breeding population, it is considered rare. Organizations like the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and the Food and Agriculture Organization (with their Domestic Animal Diversity Information System) keep track of these numbers and determine if a breed is rare or not.

Why Do Some Cattle Breeds Become Rare

  • Switching to commercial breeds that better meet the needs of the breeders. Example: the Holstein replaced the Canadienne for dairy production in Canada.
  • Epidemics that may severely dent a breed’s population. Example: For a while, the Belted Galloway population was on the decline due to foot-and-mouth disease, though its numbers have risen since.
  • Some breeds may be limited to specific regions. Example: the Chillingham Wild can be found only in a small park in England.

Thanks to the conservation efforts of both individual conservationists and groups, several of these rare cattle are being cared for. Some, like the Texas Longhorn, have even recovered from nearly going extinct and continue to thrive with an overall population of around 400,000 individuals.

Rare Cattle Breeds

List of Cattle Breeds Considered Rare

BreedHow Many Are LeftWhere Are They FoundPurpose
Panda Cow24 (as of 2015)United StatesOrnamental
KerryAround 145 (as of 2023)Canada, Ireland, and the United StatesDairy
Vaynol150 (as of 2014)Lincolnshire and West Yorkshire in the United KingdomBeef
Chillingham WildAround 150 (as of 2022)Chillingham Castle, Northumberland, EnglandUnknown
Whitebred Shorthorn200 (as of 2023)EnglandBeef
Droimeann266 (as of 2020)IrelandDairy
Canadienne300 (as of 2023)Quebec, CanadaDairy
American Milking Devon500 (as of 2021)Canada and the United StatesDual purpose (beef & dairy)
Old Gloucester700 (as of 2022)Gloucestershire, EnglandDual purpose (beef & dairy)
Shetland800 (as of 2015)Australia and the United KingdomDual purpose (beef & dairy)
Irish Moiled900 (as of 2021)United Kingdom, including Ireland and EnglandDual purpose (beef & dairy)
Ankole-Watusi1500 (as of 2016)United StatesDairy
Ancient White Park2000 (as of 2021)Canada, England, and the United StatesBeef
Vechur2000 (as of 2022)IndiaDairy
Florida Cracker2500-4900 (as of 2022)United States, from the eastern seaboard to MontanaHeritage conservation 
PineywoodsLess than 5000 (as of 2022)Southeastern United StatesDual purpose (beef & dairy)
Miniature Zebu6200 (as of 2016)United StatesDraught
Miniature JerseyCanada and the United StatesDairy

Note: Multiple UK breeds’ original populations are at risk despite the breed itself having established populations elsewhere. These include:

  • Dairy Shorthorn
  • Native Aberdeen Angus
  • British White
  • Lincoln Red
  • Traditional Hereford
  • Highland
  • Dexter
  • Belted Galloway

The original populations tend to be monitored by groups like the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, which tracks the number of cattle in each of these breeds.

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