Brahman Cattle

By: Art Leatherwood

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: June 12, 2016

The Brahman, Bos indicus, is thought to have originated in India more than 4,000 years ago. Brahman cattle were introduced to Texas in the mid-1800s and have since been bred with Hereford and shorthorn cows to produce animals more resistant to disease and insects. Over the years southeastern Texas has become the major breeding center for the American Brahman. There are more than thirty breeds of Bos indicus, but only four–Guzerat, Gir, Nellore and Krishna valley (all named for place names in India except for the last, which is named for a river there)–have figured in the development of the distinct American Brahman. Two of the earliest importations to America were to South Carolina, where a Dr. Campbell and Campbell R. Bryce brought two Indian bulls and four cows from Egypt in 1835 and Dr. James Bolton Davis imported some Brahmans in 1849. The breeding records of Davis's first two bulls was lost during the Civil War. In 1854 two to four bulls were shipped by the British government to a Richard Barrow in Louisiana. As early as 1860 Brahman crosses that probably originated from the Barrow cattle were shipped to Hays County, Texas, and a Brahman bull was included in a bankruptcy transfer in Comal County in 1862. In 1871 rancher Mifflin Kenedy bought 120 cattle that were part Brahman and part Durham. In 1874 he and Richard King purchased fifteen Brahman bulls in New Orleans that were then transported to Rockport, Texas. Brahman herds were also developed in Galveston and at the ranches of James A. McFaddin and John David Miller at Victoria. John N. Keeran and Abel H (Shanghai) Pierce bought five Brahmans at Indianola in 1878. In 1885, J. M. Frost and Albert Montgomery imported two Brahman bulls, named Khedive and Richard III, from India to New Orleans, where they were bred with the offspring of Barrow's four bulls. Frost-Montgomery Brahmans were subsequently sold for cattle-improvement programs in coastal areas of Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. Allen M. McFaddin of Victoria and F. B. Wood of Refugio purchased the remaining herd of the Montgomery cattle after Montgomery's death in 1894. Another group of Brahmans was brought to the United States by the Hagenbeck Circus for show at the St Louis World's Fair of 1904. Al McFaddin probably brought one of those bulls, Prince, to Texas. The largest early importation was financed by Thomas M. O'Connor and the estate of Shanghai Pierce. A. P. Borden toured India for the Pierce estate and selected fifty-one Brahman cattle, which were quarantined in 1906 in New York harbor, where about eighteen died of surra. As a result of the surra outbreak the Department of Agriculture forbade importation of cattle from India until 1946. From 1906 until 1946 any Brahman cattle that entered the United States came through Brazil and Canada. The Brazilian Brahman was called a zebu. In 1924 ninety of these were brought across the Rio Grande into Texas by Dr. Ferdinand Ruffier at Eagle Pass and distributed throughout South Texas. In 1946 eighteen more zebu bulls were brought to Texas from Brazil.

Apparently little has been done to breed purebred Brahmans for meat production. Instead, their desirable characteristics have been used to improve other breeds for production in Texas, principally Herefords and shorthorns. Several cattle breeds have been developed in Texas from crossbreeding with the Brahman. The famous Santa Gertrudis of the King Ranch is three-eighths Brahman and five-eighths shorthorn, and the Brangus is three-fourths Brahman and one-fourth Angus. Other Brahman crossbreeds are the beefmaster, a mix of 50 percent Brahman and roughly equal percentages of shorthorn and Hereford; the Braford, which is three-eighths Brahman and five-eighths Hereford; the Charbray, which is three-eighths Brahman and five-eighths Charolais; and the Simbrah, which consists of three-eighths Brahman and five-eighths Simmental. The most distinguishing characteristic of the Brahman is a large hump over the shoulders. Bulls weigh 1,600 to 2,200 pounds at maturity and cows 1,000 to 1,400. Most are varying shades of grey or red with a black muzzle, hoofs, and switch. They also have a well-developed dewlap extending in folds from the lower jaw to the chest. The Brahman has several traits that suit it for the hot Texas climate. It has sweat glands throughout the body that enable it to withstand more heat than other breeds, and a muscular membrane under the skin that enables it to shake off insects. Because they can travel long distances from water, Brahmans have greater grazing range than other cattle. They are highly resistant to ticks, which indirectly cause the death of many beef animals (see TEXAS FEVER), and are practically immune to pinkeye and cancer eye. They seldom seek shelter from the sun, so are out grazing when other breeds are lying in the shade.

In February 1924, mainly through the efforts of cattleman James W. Sartwelle, a group of Brahman breeders met at the Rice Hotel in Houston and founded the American Brahman Breeders Association for the purpose of registering worthy animals. A. M. McFaddin served as the first president, and the association formally adopted "Brahman," as opposed to other versions of the name, including Brahma, Bramah, Brahmin, and Bremmer. (Regardless of its spelling, the term is often pronounced "Braymer" in Texas.) The first animal registered was a bull named Sam Houston, a descendant of McFaddin's Prince. Members of the association established standard characteristics required for registration and formed committees to inspect every animal before it could be recorded. By 1942 more than 33,000 American Brahman animals had been registered. On March 26, 1963, Governor John Connally proclaimed Jerry D. Cotten, a 22-year old military service veteran and student at North Texas State University, as "Texan Ambassador of Goodwill." Cotten rode a Brahma bull from his home in Saginaw to the World's Fair in New York City. His journey covered more than 2,000 miles and took seven months. In 1982 more than 350,000 Brahmans were registered and the breeders association, headquartered in Houston, enrolled about 300 American Brahman breeders from Texas.

Joe A. Akerman, American Brahman (Houston: American Brahman Breeders Association, 1982). Charles Schreiner III, "The Background and Development of Brahman Cattle in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 52 (April 1949).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Art Leatherwood, “Brahman Cattle,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

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June 12, 2016