The Retinta is a distinct breed of cattle that hails from the Iberian Peninsula in Spain. Their name means “dark red” in Spanish and was given to them due to the dark red color of their hide. They are considered the second-largest native breed of Spain by number of animals. Let’s take a closer look at this unique animal that’s been around for thousands of years.hoof print divider

Quick Facts about Retinta Cattle

Breed Name:Retinta
Place of Origin:Spain
Uses:Meat, Work
Bull (Male) Size:660–1,000 kg
Cow (Female) Size:380–590 kg
Color:Deep Red
Lifespan:15–20 years
Climate Tolerance:-10oC to 44oC
Care Level:Easy

Retinta Cattle Origins

Retinta Cattle Close Up
Image Credit: Gena Melendrez, Shutterstock

The Retinta is native to Spain, particularly to the south and southwest of the Iberian Peninsula. This cattle breed results from a combination of cattle breeds including the Andalusian Red, Extremadura Red, and the Andalusian Blond.

This breed of cattle has been present in the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years. There are records of the Retinta from 1497 written by Catholic monarchs in Spain describing them as working cattle that carried wool and cereal within the kingdom of Castille.

The Retinta was the first cattle taken to America between the 16th and 18th centuries and are thought to have contributed to many of the native American breeds. Retinta were kept for work and meat purposes but became exclusively kept as meat cattle sometime in the 20th century.

Retinta Cattle Characteristics

The Retinta breed is one of the most important and well-adapted cattle breeds in Spain.

They are a hardy breed that exhibits great heat tolerance and exhibits good resistance to parasites and disease.

Retintas are regarded for their strong maternal instincts and satisfactory milk production. The cows are not only well known for being great mothers, but they also do not have any known fertility issues and typically calve easily.

Retinta cattle are considered medium-sized and look very similar one to another. Their horns resemble the lyre instrument and both the hooves and the nose are pure blacks. The Retinta stay true to their name by always displaying a reddish color, though shades can vary. Their coat goes through a shed after the winter and takes on a thin, sleek appearance starting in the spring.


While the Retinta was used for both meat and work purposes since ancient times, they began to be raised exclusively for meat starting in the 20th century.

Retinta Cattle
Image Credit: Gena Melendrez,Shutterstock

Appearance & Varieties

Retinta cattle come in varying shades of red but typically display a more deep red color.

Their size and coloration have been known to vary by region. Lighter-colored cattle were typically found in the coastal areas.

Retintas have black noses and hooves with white lyre-shaped horns. This strong, sturdy, hardy breed is medium-sized with cows weighing between 380 and 590kg. Bulls are much larger and fall in the weight range of 660 to 1000kg fully grown.

Population, Distribution & Habitat

Retinta cattle are primarily found in the arid and sunny areas of southwestern Spain. They are found in a variety of ecosystems in the surrounding area but are commonly found in the more dense shrublands that make for great grazing.

A recent census conducted estimates that there are 200,000 Retinta in Spain, meaning the breed makes up 7% of the country’s cattle population of cattle.

Though the Retinta was brought to the Americas and the breed did contribute to the genetics of Native American cattle breeds, the Retinta itself was not preserved in the country. The Retinta remains a Spanish native with most of the population still located where they began.

Retinta cow on the beach
Image Credit: Carlos Duarte Stock, Shutterstock

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Are Retinta Cattle Good for Small-Scale Farming?

Unless you are located in the southwestern region of Spain, the Retina may not be a readily available cattle breed for your small-scale farming operation. They are not a very common breed outside their home country.

The Spanish National Association of Select Retinto Breed Cattle is a non-profit organization that was developed in 1970 to ensure breed purity and improvement through selection.

This association strives to improve meat quality and reproductive characteristics to make them a prime candidate for farming in Spain, which has good meat conversion.

The Retinta’s characteristics and hardiness, along with the Spanish National Association of Select Retinto Breed’s efforts to maintain their quality, make them top-of-the-line cattle for meat production.

Featured Image Credit: narcisopa, Shutterstock