Angus Beef, also known as Aberdeen cattle, are a very successful and well known breed of cattle. They originated in Scotland in the highlands of Northern Scotland, in the countries or "shires" of Angus and Aberdeen of Angus and Aberdeenshire, but today they are found worldwide as one of the most successful cattle ever. There are two strains in the Angus breed - Black and Red, and are naturally polled.
Angus cattle, locally also known as doddies or hummlies, were developed by three Scottish ranchers in the early 1800s.
Hugh Watson. Both Hugh Watsons father and grandfather had been cattle buyers and breeders. The family is known to have owned cattle as early as 1735. Hugh Watson became a tenant of Keillor Farm in Angus in 1808.
He received from his father's herd, six of the best and blackest cows, as well as a bull. That same summer, he visited some of the leading Scottish cattle markets and purchased the 10 best heifers and the best bull that he could find that showed characteristics of that he was focused on. The females were of various colors, but the bull was black; Watson decided that the color of his herd should be black and he started selecting appropriately. His favorite bull was named Old Jock. Old Jock had been awarded the number 1 in the Herd Book at the time. The bull was bred by Watson in 1842 and was sired by Grey-Breasted Jock. The bull apparently was used very heavily in the herd from 1843 until 1852 and was awarded the sweepstakes for bulls at the Highland Society Show at Perth in 1852, when he was 11 years old.
In addition Watson heavily used a cow named Old Granny. She produced a total of 29 calves, 11 of which were registered to the Herd Book. Unfortunately she was killed by lightning when she was 35 years old.
Hugh Watson practiced the fitting and showing of his cattle more than was common by other breeders of his day. He made his first exhibition at the Highland Agricultural Society Show at Perth in 1829. During his long show career, he is said to have won over 500 prizes with his cattle and did a great deal to increase the popularity of the black polled cattle over the British Isles.
William McCombie took the farm of Tillyfour in Aberdeenshire in 1824 and founded a herd from predominantly Keillor bloodlines. His well-documented close breeding produced outstanding cattle that he showed widely in England and France.
Mr. McCombie showed great foresight in planning matings, used careful management, and had unparalleled success in the show ring, and in publicizing his famous cattle. Probably his crowning success in the show ring was at the great International Exposition held at Paris in 1878. There he won the first prize of $500 as an exhibitor of cattle from a foreign country and also the grand prize of $500 for the best group of beef-producing animals bred by any exhibitor. Not only did Mr. McCombie show in breeding classes but he also exhibited in steer classes at the market shows.
Probably the most famous steer that he produced was the famous show animal Black Prince, who won at the Birmingham and Smithfield shows in 1867 when he was four years of age. From the latter show, he was taken to Winsor Castle for the personal inspection by Queen Victoria, and later her Majesty accepted some Christmas beef from the carcass of the steer.
The English Crown has long been interested in livestock improvement, and Queen Victoria paid a personal visit to Tillyfour a year or two after the visit of the famous Black Prince to the castle. Such a tribute to an outstanding breeder naturally attracted great attention to the already famous herd. McCombie had the further distinction of being the first tenant farmer in Scotland to be elected to the House of Commons.
Sir George Macpherson-Grant. Macpherson-Grant had the oldest herd of polled Aberdeen Angus cattle in Scotland when he started improving the breed. In 1860, he bought a cow named Erica from the Earl of Southesks Kinnaird herd which started a famous Ballindalloch bloodline. He was considered one of the greatest exhibitors of the breed, and won prizes at all the major shows, including first prize at the Paris Exhibition of 1878.
By line breeding and selection for type, these early pioneers established the foundation for what is unarguably the greatest beef breed in the world.
Since then, across the globe ranchers have recognized the Angus breed's ability to introduce functionality and value into their herds, while cutting operating costs, reducing time and labor requirements, balancing traits and boosting profits.
Angus cows weigh an average of 550kg, while bulls can weigh about 850kg, with high muscle content. Their frame is classed as average-sized.
They have a good reputation for docility and complacency. They have high fertility rates, and the calving process is known to be a smooth operation with little to no complications usually arising.
They are generally healthy, and common bovine illnesses like eye cancer are rare. Angus cattle, and even Angus crosses, do very well and often thrive on forage-based production systems. Their carcasses provide high saleable beef yields, with a good ratio of lean meat against waste, like bone and fat. The meat also has good marbling, making for tender beef.
Angus can also work well for dairy farmers, with some farmers finding the shorter gestation period (around 1-2 weeks less than average continental breeds) of Angus-cross calves a good factor in maximizing milk output. The ease of calving for dams mated with an Angus bull improves the milk yield.
Angus beef often is often promoted as having superior taste. This has been expanded by many fast-food chains promoting the message that 100% Angus makes their meat tastier.