South Africa is the birthplace of the scientifically developed Bonsmara breed. It was bred to perform in sub-tropical climates, where British cattle had proved unsuccessful and Afrikander struggled with calving regularity. The breeding program of the late 1930's was carried out by Professor Jan Bonsma at the Messina Livestock Research station. The name is derived from both the professor who took charge in the development process, and the farm known as ‘Mara', on which the primary herds were bred.
Initially, five breeds of British origin were crossed with local Afrikander stock. Pilot trials suggested that Hereford and Shorthorn crosses were the best performers and shortly after, a cross-breeding course begun to create progeny with 5/8 Afrikander and 3/8 Shorthorn or Hereford blood.
Early observations proved that calving percentages and weaning weights were higher, while calf mortality rates dropped. Selective breeding over the next 20 years helped to refine the breed and it has become a well-established, popular beef breed.
Bonsmara coat colour is red and although they are horned cattle, breed requirements stipulate that they must be dehorned. This fertile breed is well suited to sub-tropical climates and experiences easy calving. Bonsmara catle also produce high quality meat. Because the breed is performance tested, it ensures that progeny will be produced at the highest pedigree, and for this reason, the breed is suitable for cross-breeding.
The Bonsmara breed arrived in Australia in 1998 when around 400 embryos were imported from South Africa. Subsequently, a shipment of semen arrived from the USA. Two years later, the Bonsmara Cattle Breeders Society of Australia was formed. Currently, there are over 3000 cattle in the country that have been influenced by Bonsmara bloodlines.
Today, Bonsmara cattle are distributed throughout South Africa, the United States and Australia.