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.
Although originally bred as a dual-purpose breed, 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 in to two sections, and now Beef and Dairy Shorthorns are bred as two separate breeds.
In 1970, some dairy breeders began to infuse the bloodlines of other breeds. Some breeders refrained from practicing this new breeding scheme, which explains why there is an assortment of Shorthorn types in today's market. Shorthorn bloodlines have had an influence on over 40 different breeds.
Dairy Shorthorn have medium-sized frames and coat colour varies between red, red and white, white, and roan. They can be bred both horned and polled. Easy calving, reproductive efficiency, structural soundness and longevity are also characteristic.
Shorthorn milk is suitable for cheese production due to the ration of protein to fat. Dairy Shorthorns have also contributed to the developmen of other European breeds including the Charolais, South Devon, Limousin and Maine-Anjou. The modern Dairy Shorthorn can still serve as a dual-purpose breed as they carry adequate amounts of heavy fleshing. Dairy Shorthorn bulls are often introduced into different commercial beef herds, including Angus and Hereford.
The Diary Shorthorn Association of Australia preserve and promote the breed throughout the country.
Today, Dairy Shorthorn are distributed throughout the UK, the United States, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Canada, and Argentina.