The Droughtmaster cattle breed was produced through selective breeding by farmers from Queensland, Australia who knew they needed to produce cattle that could thrive in their unique climate on their drought-ridden land.

Droughtmasters came to be in the early 1900s, and while they are still most commonly found in Australia, they have been exported to other countries as well. These unique, red cattle possess many desirable qualities and have an excellent temperament. In this article, we’ll talk all about what makes the Droughtmaster stand out amongst the rest.

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Quick Facts About the Droughtmaster Cattle

Breed Name:Droughtmaster
Place of Origin:North Queensland, Australia
Bull (Male) Size:Up to 2,200 pounds
Cow (Female) Size:Up to 1,530 pounds
Color:Golden honey to dark red
Lifespan:15 to 20 years
Climate Tolerance:Heat tolerant
Care Level:Beginner to average
Production:Meat production

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Droughtmaster Cattle Origins

In the late 1800s, farmers from North Queensland, Australia set out to produce a cattle breed that could not only withstand but thrive in the local climate and terrain. They kept British cattle that understandably struggled in the parasite-ridden and hot arid lands of Australia.

Australia experienced its worst drought on record, known as The Federation Drought from 1895 to 1903. The local farmers needed to produce cattle that would be suitable for the tropics and withstand these types of conditions. Eventually, the crossbreeding of zebuine beef cattle, Brahman half-breeds, and the British Shorthorns and Herefords resulted in the docile, adaptable Droughtmaster.

By the 1950s, Droughtmaster breeders decided to produce only red cattle within the breed to make them even more suitable for the extreme heat and sun damage.

Droughtmaster Characteristics

The Droughtmaster is a breed that is medium to large with colors that range from a golden honey-tan to dark red in color. These cattle have skin that is loose, and their coat is short and sleek, making them ideal for hot weather and sun exposure. They have a moderate hump on the back, a dewlap, and medium to large ears. The horns are polled on most Droughtmasters.

Droughtmasters are known for being fertile and calving easily. Cows possess a very strong maternal instinct and have high milk production. These docile cattle mature quickly, giving them longer working lives. Even the bulls are known for having a notable docile temperament.

This breed can thrive in the lands of Australia not just for their tolerance of heat, and bare, arid conditions but for their parasite resistance. Though initially bred for tick resistance due to the area’s high occurrence of tick-borne diseases, Droughtmasters show resistance to most internal and external parasites. This is very beneficial for cattlemen, as this eliminates the need for expensive vaccinations.

The breed exhibits excellent foraging abilities and digestive efficiency. Their slower metabolic rate helps them produce less heat and thrive in these areas with a short supply of grasses to graze.


Droughtmaster cattle are produced specifically as beef cattle. Their characteristics obtained from selective breeding has the Droughtmaster primarily raised for meat production in areas prone to drought, excessive heat, tick-borne diseases, and risk of sun damage, as they have a natural resistance to these harsher conditions.

Appearance & Varieties

Droughtmaster cattle are medium to large cattle with an average body length. This breed can range in color from golden honey to dark red, though they are primarily red in color. Bulls can weigh more than 2,000 pounds and females, 1,500 pounds.

Their red pigmentation helps protect them from sun damage that can easily result in their climate conditions. Their skin is loose, which helps keep them from overheating.

Droughtmasters have a very short, sleek coat, and their horns are typically polled, though some farmers choose to keep them horned. The breed has an extended dewlap and a moderate hump, which has been passed down from their ancestors.


As mentioned, the Droughtmaster breed is conditioned for the bare, arid conditions of the Australian terrain. They are spread throughout the mainland states of Australia, with the largest population noted between Cape York and the border of New South Wales. Because of the Droughtmaster’s desirable qualities, especially for the more tropical climates, they have been exported to Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East, and even some of the Pacific Islands.

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Are Droughtmaster Cattle Good for Small-Scale Farming?

Droughtmasters are excellent for small-scale farming with a focus on beef production.  It is said the Droughtmaster possesses a high percentage of well-marbled, good-quality meat.

Droughtmasters are a breed that offers lower production costs and greater profits due to all their well-renowned qualities. Their resistance to parasites saves on the need for expensive vaccinations and additional veterinary care related to disease or other health issues caused by parasitic infections.

In addition to being favorable in hot weather and even drought conditions, they are fertile cattle that calve very easily, have high milk production, and make excellent mothers. Their docile and quiet temperaments make them very easy for farmers to handle. Overall, they are a great breed for small-scale farming.

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Final Thoughts

The Droughtmaster is a very interesting breed of red cattle that was produced in the early 1900s by farmers in north Queensland, Australia to create cattle that were adapted to their specific climate conditions. They possess many desirable qualities that many cattlemen desire, especially those in more tropical conditions.

Featured Image Credit: RaGS2, Shutterstock