About Holstein Cattle
Holstein Friesian Cattle, or just Holstein cattle, are
considered the worlds highest dairy production cows.
When European tribes settled the Netherlands close to 2,000
years ago, they wanted animals that would make the best use of the land. The
black cattle of the Batavians and white cows of Friesians were bred and
strictly culled to produce animals that were the most efficient, producing the
most milk with limited feed resources. These animals genetically evolved into
the efficient, high producing black-and-white dairy cow, known today as the
When markets began to develop for milk in America, dairy
breeders turned to Holland for their cattle. Winthrop Chenery, a Massachusetts
breeder, purchased a Holland cow from a Dutch sailing master who had landed
cargo at Boston in 1852. The cow had furnished the ship's crew with fresh milk
during the voyage. Chenery was so pleased with her milk production that he
imported more Holsteins in 1857, 1859 and 1861. Many other breeders soon joined
the race to establish Holsteins in America.
By the late 1800s, there was enough interest among Holstein
breeders to form associations to record pedigrees and maintain herdbooks. These
associations merged in 1885, to found the Holstein-Friesian Association of
America. In 1994, the name was changed to Holstein Association USA, Inc.
In Europe, Holstein Cattle is used for milk in the north,
and meat in the south. Since 1945, European national development has led to
cattle breeding and dairy products becoming increasingly regionalized. More
than 80% of dairy production is north of a line joining Bordeaux and Venice,
which also has more than 60% of the total cattle. This change has led to the
need for specialized animals for dairy, and beef, production. Until this time,
milk and beef had been produced from dual-purpose animals. The resulting breeds,
derivatives of the Dutch Friesian, had become very different animals from those
developed by breeders in the United States, who use Holsteins only for dairy
Breeders imported specialized dairy Holsteins from the
United States to cross with the European black and whites. For this reason, in
modern usage, "Holstein" is used to describe North or South American
stock and its use in Europe, particularly in the North. "Friesian"
denotes animals of a traditional European ancestry, bred for both dairy and
beef use. Crosses between the two are described by the term
Perhaps the most famous Holstein was Pauline Wayne, which
served from 1910 to 1913 as the official presidential pet to the 27th President
of the United States, William Howard Taft. Pauline Wayne lived and grazed on
the White House lawn and provided milk for the first family.