Norwegian red cattle are a breed of Angus cattle that were developed in Norway in the early 1900s. The Norwegian red is an easy-to-handle, hardy breed that is well suited to the cold climate of Norway. These cattle are known for their characteristic red coloring and smooth, dark skin and their beautiful coats make them stand out from other cattle.

Norwegian red cattle are a dual-purpose breed—used for their meat and milk—and are considered to be a very safe and reliable choice for farmers. They are a valuable commodity because they produce high-quality dairy and beef, have low maintenance needs, have excellent reproductive traits, and are resistant to many diseases including clinical mastitis and bovine tuberculosis.

Read on below to find out everything you need to know about this healthy and productive breed.

new hoof divider

Quick Facts about Norwegian Red Cattle

Breed Name:Norwegian Red Cattle
Place of Origin:Norway
Uses:Dairy and beef
Bull (Male) Weight:2,900 lbs
Cow (Female) Weight:1,300 lbs
Bull (Male) Size:4 ft 8 in
Cow (Female) Size:4 ft 5 in
Color:Red, white, or black coat
Lifespan:Farmed 4–6 years, natural 15–20 years
Climate Tolerance:Tolerates hot and cold conditions
Care Level:Low

Norwegian Red Cattle Breed Origins

The Norwegian Red Cattle breed was developed in 1935 through the crossing of several Scandinavian dairy breeds. These breeds included the Norwegian Red-and-White, the Red Trondheim, and the Red Polled Ostland as well as other native Norwegian dairy cattle. Norwegian Red breeding is controlled by a cooperative owned by Norwegian dairy farmers named Geno. Norwegian Red farmers actively contribute to the strategic development of the breeding program through this cooperative system.

By the mid-1970s the Norwegian Red had become the dominant cattle breed in Norway. Today, it is so popular with Norwegian farmers that it makes up 98% of the total national herd. Norwegian Red semen is exported to more than 30 different countries to be used in crossbreeding programs to improve herds around the world, by mixing the health and productivity gains of the Norwegian Red into other breeds.

new hoof divider

Norwegian Red Cattle Breed Characteristics

Since the 1970s, Norway’s extensive data collection system on Norwegian Red herds has led to improved genetics for health and fertility, in conjunction with excellent milk yields. Genetics from Norwegian Red cattle have been shown to increase the overall health and fertility in all mixed-breed herds, giving dairy farmers greater profitability and lower workload.

For example, a mixed breed of Norwegian Red and Holstein cattle on commercial farms in the United States had a 22% higher survival rate to their fourth pregnancy and lactation than Holstein only cattle in the same herd. These characteristics and the science to prove them make the Norwegian Red a safe choice for farmers.


The Norwegian red is a dual-purpose beef and dairy breed that is capable of producing both meat and milk. Cattle of this breed are capable of producing large amounts of milk with a high butterfat content as well as high protein content. Moreover, they are also a good breed for producing meat that is flavorful, tender, and contains little fat.

They are a hardy breed, long-living and productive over a longer timespan. Considering all of these factors, it’s easy to see why the Norwegian Red is quite popular with farmers, particularly in Scandinavia.

Appearance & Varieties

Norwegian Reds are usually dark red in color, but they can also be red-pied, black-pied, and even black in some cases. They are a medium-sized breed and cows can weigh up to 1,300 lbs, with bulls weighing up to 2,900 lbs. The Norwegian Reds can either be polled or horned. Polled animals have become more prevalent in recent years due to the systematic selection of polled bulls for breeding. Between 30% and 40% of the calves in Norway are born polled, meaning they lack horns genetically.

Population, Distribution & Habitat

There is no way to tell how many Norwegian Red Cattle exist in the world today. Because they are a relatively new breed with insufficient statistics collected, it is not easy for a consensus to be reached.

However, we do know that Norwegian Red Cattle are mostly found in Norway and Scandinavia, and they provide meats and dairy products to the countries located there. As well as being intensively farmed, they can be grass-fed on pasture grounds as well.

new hoof divider

Are Norwegian Red Cattle Good for Small-Scale Farming?

Yes. In addition to being robustly healthy and hardy animals that can thrive on a relatively limited diet, Norwegian Red Cattle are also excellent milk producers and meat producers. It is also worth noting that a fairly high proportion of Norwegian Red calves are born polled, and this is a medium-sized cow with a very good temperament. This means they are easy to take care of for part-time farmers.

As a result of their reproductive health and the ability to gain weight on a lower feed level, they are an excellent option for small-scale farms with smaller pastures. This means that Norwegian Reds—once you have your herd set up—are an affordable, easy-care breed that can be farmed in small or large numbers and still turn a profit either way.

Featured Image Credit: ramboldheiner, Pixabay