The Charolais breed of cattle originated in the Charolles region of France and is considered to be one of the oldest French breeds. Charolais cattle were developed from crossing native cattle with Shorthorn stock. Herds made their way to the Nievre Province, where they were improved by breeders and were referred to as Nivernais Cattle. In 1846, a herd book was established for the Nivernais while a separate one was created for cattle from the Charolles region in 1883. The herd books later merged in 1919 to signify the establishment of one breed. French breeders focused on utility and muscling, as opposed to refinement.
Charolais cattle have large frames and their coat colour varies between white to light straw. However, some black and red strains are being bred as well. Their bodies are typically well-muscled and long and they can be bred both horned and polled. This breed is also known for late maturing, efficient feed conversion, longevity, regular calving and good milking. Their late maturity means that they are conducive to fattening for high finished weight. Their carcases are recognised for their heavy weights, high yields and tasty yet relatively lean meats.
Charolais can perform well in different management systems, be it grass-based or intensive. The breed is also acknowledged for its composite value when crossed with other breeds such as Angus or Hereford.
The Charolais Society of Australia maintain and promote the breed with in australia.
The Charolais breed was introduced to Australia via a pure French semen transfer from the UK and live animal imports from New Zealand in 1969. In fact, Charolais was the first European breed to be introduced to the country. Later, bulls and heifers were imported from France and the UK. The breed is distributed throughout most states in Australia.
Today, Charolais cattle are distributed throughout the world.