The Shorthorn comes from the Tees River Valley in North-East England and its origins date back to the 1700's. Dutch dairy cattle were crossed with the native Tesswater stock, and through the development of Scottish breeders emerged the modern variation of the Shorthorn breed. Scottish breeders had focused on traits such as thickness and rates of maturity.
Over the years, some herds were bred for beef qualities, while others were bred exclusively for milking abilities, resulting in two closely related yet divergent strains. In 1958, the herd book was divided into two sections, and now Beef and Dairy Shorthorns are bred as two separate breeds. In order to enhance hardiness and size, in 1976, the Beef Shorthorn Cattle Society authorised the inclusion of Maine-Anjou bloodlines, which since 2001 has been prohibited.
Their commercial value in the veal market has much to do with their fast maturing; fat develops early causing the carcase to peak earlier than most other breeds. It also means that females have a longer reproductive life span., which is also aided by high fertility. Easy calving, finishing and feed conversion qualities, well-marbled and tender meat, and high carcase yield are also common features For these reasons, Japanese and Korean markets are particularly important for breeders in Australia. Shorthorn bloodlines have majorly contributed to various cross-breeding ventures. Some 40 others breeds have incorporated Shorthorn genetics.
Beef Shorthorns are naturally horned however most in Australia have been genetically polled. Different coat colours include roan, red and white. In terms of body type, they tend to be smaller in frame.
The late 18th century saw the introduction of the Shorthorn breed into Australia. It was used for beef, dairy and draught purposes. Over the years, several distinct strains have emerged including the Beef Shorthorn, the Poll Shorthorn, the Durham, the Dairy Shorthorn and the Australian Shorthorn.
In Australia today, Beef Shorthorn herds are predominantly distributed in low-level rainfall areas but may also be found in harsher climates such as the Northern Territory. The Beef Shorthorn Society of Australia provides all relevant information to the public and breeders.
Today, Beef Shorthorns are distributed throughout the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealnd and Australia.