As the name implies, the Hereford breed comes from Herefordshire, England. Both the red cattle of Roman Briton and the Welsh cattle that once inhabited the area along the English/Welsh border are the recognised ancestors of this popular breed.
Traditionally, Herefords served as draught animals before going to market. Accordingly, they exhibited developed muscular, hardy conformations in the early days. As breeders have attempted to improve the breed over the years, a body type has emerged that is smaller and more refined than that of the earlier type. Both horned and polled strains exist, the latter strain is officially recognised as its own breed, Polled Herefords.
Hereford body colour varies between shades of rusty browns to dark reds, while the face, crest, dewlap and parts of the legs are typically white. Bulls can weigh up to 1800 pounds, while mature cows generally weigh around 1200 pounds. The breed is known for efficient performance on different pastoral conditions, capacity to adapt to climatic extremes, high fertility and foraging abilities. Females are acknowledged for their longevity, some cows as old as 15 continue to bear calves. Herefords are highly versatile in terms of the beef market, where they can produce high yielding, well-marbled, heavy carcasses or alternatively, young and lightly finished ones. They produce prime beef in the areas of valuable cuts.
Herefords first arrived in Australia in 1826 when they were imported to Hobart. It was not until the following year that they were brought to the mainland. The next few decades saw further importations, and today, Hereford cattle are abundant throughout the country. They are especially predominant in the central and south-eastern states. Herefords Australia provides a vast information service for both breeders and the public. The association is responsible for breed promotion and preservation.
Today, Herefords are distributed throughout more than 50 countries. Since 1817, the breed has been exported out of England, and can now be found locations including the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
Polled Herefords were developed by American Hereford breeders who recognised the advantages of a hornless breed. By 1907, numbers were significant enough to warrant the creation of Poll Hereford registry.
Poll Herefords first arrived in Australia in 1920, when live stock was imported to Queensland. The breed has since spread to other states. In 1922, the first breed association was established and eleven years later, the Australian Poll Hereford Society was formed. The polled breed exhibits similar characteristics to Herefords.