When it comes to raising cattle, it can be challenging to decide which breed would be the best to keep. The Beef Shorthorn makes an excellent addition to any farm, big or small, as it requires very little upkeep. This breed is incredibly docile and easy to handle. They are also big grazers, which saves you money on feeding them. Plus, the meat they produce is incredibly tender and tasty. It’s easy to see why this is one of the more popular breeds around!

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Quick Facts about Beef Shorthorn Cattle Breed

Breed Name:Beef Shorthorn
Place of Origin:England
Bull (Male) Size:1,800 – 2,200 lbs
Cow (Female) Size:1,450 – 1,800 lbs
Color:Red, white, or roan
Lifespan:20 years
Climate Tolerance:All climates
Care Level:Easy to moderate
Milk & Meat Production:Very good

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Beef Shorthorn Cattle Breed Origins

Japanese shorthorn eating grass
Image Credit: Ken Kojima, Shutterstock

The original Shorthorn cattle were established in the 18th century in Northeast England. They were bred to be dual purpose, but it was found that particular bloodlines in this breed tended to be better for meat, while others were better for milking. As a result, the lines eventually diverged in 19581 into the Beef Shorthorn breed and the Milking Shorthorn breed.

The Shorthorn breed was first brought to the United States in the late 1700s2. The largest number of imports to the states came circa 1820.

Beef Shorthorn Cattle Breed Characteristics

Beef Shorthorns are grown for beef, as the name implies, and are much larger than the Milking Shorthorns. While bulls are typically docile and easy to deal with, they can also become aggressive at times, so they should be handled carefully. Cows are usually relatively calm and easy to manage.

The bulls are known for being aggressive breeders and are often used in crossbreeding programs. And females are known for their calving ease—98%3 of the time, when a Beef Shorthorn births, it will require no assistance. Plus, they are excellent mothers. Both equal a lower rate of calf mortality.

The Beef Shorthorn has many advantages that make it a great choice for a farm. This breed produces an excellent quality of beef that is extra tender and marbled (and well-known for its flavor and consistency). They also have a wonderful rate of grain and high feed conversion. And because they rarely have issues with their feet or legs, there’s rarely any dealing with replacing them or exorbitant vet bills.


Though the Shorthorn was created as a dual-purpose animal (milking and meat), the breed eventually diverged bloodlines producing the Beef Shorthorn and the Milking Shorthorn. As the name indicates, the Beef Shorthorn is used primarily for their meat, which is known for its delicious flavor, extreme tenderness, and marbling qualities.

Appearance & Varieties

The Beef Shorthorn breed comes in three colors—white, red, or roan. Cattle that are red may be a solid color or have markings that are white. A completely white cow is rare, though. This breed has horns that are short and thick, though some may be polled at an early age.

A healthy Beef Shorthorn will have a strong neck and shoulders, plus the structure of its feet and legs will be neither overly straight nor sickled. Though they weigh quite a bit, they are only considered to be medium-sized cows. Calves, however, tend to be on the smaller side when born.


The Beef Shorthorn can be found in a wide variety of locations, though mainly in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Argentina, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Uruguay. Most often, they are used in commercial or suckler herds. Some pure-bred Shorthorns are listed on the American Livestock Conservancy’s watchlist due to lessening populations, but the Beef Shorthorn is not.

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Are Beef Shorthorn Cattle Good for Small-Scale Farming?

Northern Dairy Shorthorn
Image Credit: Ballygally View Images, Shutterstock

The Beef Shorthorn makes a wonderful addition to small-scale farms, as they are easy to manage with their docile temperaments, as well as quite hardy. Because they rarely have issues with feet or legs and do extremely well with calving, they shouldn’t need to be replaced often or require lots of vet visits. Plus, they are grazers who primarily meet their nutritional needs that way, making for lower costs in caring for them.

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The Beef Shorthorn is a popular breed, and for good reason! These cows tend to cost less to keep and raise, have lower calf mortality rates (which means more cows), and for the most part, are gentle. They don’t require a ton of care and upkeep and the end result of raising them is a ton of delicious beef.

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