Cattle domestication first appeared roughly 10,500 years ago, and the cows back then are the ancient ancestors of many modern-day cattle breeds1. Some cows are bred for beef, others for milk, and still others are bred as pets or show animals, but not many people can name specific breeds offhand. If you’re interested in learning about some rare cattle breeds, you’re in luck! We have some of the rarest cattle breeds listed below.


The 10 Rarest Cattle Breeds in the World

1. Dexter Cattle

Dexter cattle
Image Credit: John Hill Millar, Shutterstock
Native to:Ireland
Conservation status:Not threatened

The Dexter Cow is diminutive by cow standards, standing at just under 4 feet high and around 800 pounds. They nearly went extinct after meat production shifted to prefer larger cattle, and only a couple hundred were alive in the 1970s. Thankfully, conservation efforts helped to improve their populations, and today, the Dexter is used for both meat and milk. However, Dexters have an easygoing, amicable personality that makes them great family cows too.

2. Texas Longhorn Cattle

Texas Longhorn
Image Credit: Quinn Calder, Shutterstock
Native to:Texas
Conservation status:Watch

Descended from Spanish cattle, the Texas Longhorn was the very first cattle breed to set foot in North America. This hardy breed proved eminently adaptable and made its way west, where it found a goldmine. American buffalo had recently been hunted to extinction and left their vast grasslands behind. The Texas Longhorn was prized for its meat but was sometimes used for milk too.

Most people recognize them by their long horns, which can grow up to 8 feet long. Texas Longhorns almost became extinct in the early 20th century, but today, they’re no longer at risk of extinction. They’re still monitored to make sure their numbers don’t get too low, though.

3. Vaynol Cattle

Vaynol Cattle at Temple Newsam
Vaynol Cattle at Temple Newsam (Image Credit: Rich Tea, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)
Native to:Wales
Conservation status:Critically Endangered

The Vaynol Cow is one of the rarest in the world, with just a few hundred alive today. They’re known for their gentle personalities and elegant, slender white build compared to other cattle. Vaynol cattle used to be popular in Wales, but commercial agriculture caused their numbers to decline rapidly. There are various organizations working to help raise awareness about the breed, including the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

4. Irish Moiled

irish moiled cattle standing in the field
Image Credit: Jane_Stanley, Shutterstock
Native to:Ireland
Conservation status:Vulnerable

Irish Moiled cattle are some of the rarest in the world, with just a few thousand left. They originally gained a reputation as a milk cow that does well in harsh conditions but became popular for their high-quality beef as well.

Irish Moiled cows are easily identified by their complete lack of any horns and a red coat with a trademark white stripe along the back. Sadly, these cows were critically endangered as of the 1980s, but the silver lining is that their populations are back up to a few thousand all over Ireland.

5. Ankole-Watusi

ankole watusi cattle
Image Credit: Paula Cobleigh, Shutterstock
Native to:USA, Africa
Conservation status:Recovering

The Ankole-Watusi cattle are a showy breed famous for their imposing horns and kind demeanor, originally hailing from Africa. They’ve been imported to the US to be crossbred with Texas Longhorns, but the breed still roams Africa too. The Watusi nearly went extinct due to habitat destruction and poachers hunting them for their horns, but focused conservation efforts have worked wonders to bring them up to the hopeful “recovering” conservation status.

6. Belgian Blue

belgian blue cow
Image Credit: YvonneHuijbens, Pixabay
Native to:Belgium
Conservation status:Not at risk

Tracing back to 19th century Belgium, the Belgian Blue is a muscular powerhouse of a cow widely bred for its beef, which chefs claim has an especially smooth texture and rich flavor. As a fun fact, their huge muscles are actually thanks to a genetic mutation that raises their protein levels.

Belgian Blues are popular cattle today for their meat, but the breed nearly went extinct in the early 20th century. It took the hard work of numerous dedicated cattle breeders to bring them back, but today, Belgian Blues are not at risk.

7. Highland Cattle

highland cattle in field
Image Credit: RonBerg, Pixabay
Native to:Scotland
Conservation status:Not at risk

Highland cows are more popular as show animals these days, with their photogenic coats and good-natured attitude, but they were once dairy and beef cows. Their long coat isn’t just for show, though—it helps them survive in the unruly Scottish Highlands. It must have worked all these years because they’re one of the oldest cattle breeds alive today. This is yet another cattle breed that nearly died out in the 1900s but was successfully brought back from the precipice of extinction.

8. Chillingham White Cattle

Chillingham White Cattle
Image Credit: Michael Conrad, Shutterstock
Native to:The United Kingdom
Conservation status:Not at risk

Chillingham cattle are vanishingly rare, with just 138 living in an immaculate preserve in Northumberland, UK. They’ve lived there for over 600 years, even surviving a tumble with inbreeding depression due to inbreeding weakening their genes.

The breed is 100% wild and undomesticated, with many pointing to Chillingham White cattle as a peek into the past of ancient untamed cattle history. Interestingly, historical depictions of this breed from hundreds of years ago are almost identical to how the breed looks today.

Related Read: 9 White Cow Breeds: An Overview (With Pictures)

9. Miniature Zebu

Funny Miniature black Zebu with its tongue sticking out
Image Credit: White_Fox, Shutterstock
Native to:India, United States
Conservation status:Not at risk

The Indian Miniature Zebu is possibly the most adorable cow breed of all time, and they’re considered the only true miniature cow breed. They were created by mixing various small Indian cattle together, including the Brahman and Guzerat. Though their numbers were once small, the Mini Zebu has made a big comeback as a popular show animal and companion.

10. Florida Cracker

Florida Cracker Cattle
Image Credit: TFoxFoto, Shutterstock
Native to:Florida, US
Conservation status:Not at risk

Perhaps distant cousins to the Texas Longhorn, the Florida Cracker also came from Spanish cattle stock in the 16th century to the budding Spanish colony we know as Florida. Florida Crackers are considered triple-use cows, valuable for dairy, meat, and draught purposes alike. Today there are just a few thousand in the wild, thanks to human encroachment on their natural habitats and the new invention of razor wire.



Cattle are often underappreciated animals, but we rely on them for more than you might realize. Many of the breeds here are either endangered or have been, which is another important reminder to monitor cattle populations and keep them stable in the near future.

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Featured Image Credit: keigroen, Pixabay