Hereford Cattle

By: Art Leatherwood

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: May 11, 2017

The success of the Hereford cattle breed in Texas was instrumental in the disappearance of longhorn cattle as a major range breed. Herefords also proved better adapted to the conditions of the open range than were shorthorn cattle, and eventually replaced that breed, also, as the dominant cattle breed in Texas. Hereford cattle probably originated from wild aboriginal animals known to be in the Herefordshire area of West England as early as the fifth century. There are several different stories of how these cattle developed into the modern breed of Herefords. One version has it that the wild cattle crossed with red animals from Yorkshire and white-faced animals from Holland. It is also possible that white Welsh cattle bred with Herefordshire stock. The cross produced a superior beast of burden that fattened at an early age and had excellent milk capacity. Herefords as a distinct breed with the basic distinguishing characteristics of today were established by the last quarter of the 1700s. The modern Hereford is colored dark red to red-yellow, with a white face, crest, dewlap, and underline. Herefords with white flanks and white markings below the knees and hocks are also common. Mature males may weigh up to 1,800 pounds, while mature females may weigh around 1,200. The first Herefords were introduced to America by Henry Clay in 1817, when he brought a cow, a heifer, and a young bull to his Kentucky farm. They were bred with shorthorn cattle to avoid inbreeding, and in subsequent generations the Hereford characteristics were gradually lost. The first breeding herd was established in New York when William H. Sotham imported twenty-two animals. In 1876 some of the first Herefords to arrive in Texas were brought in by the E. F. and William S. Ikard brothers of Henrietta, Texas. They purchased ten animals at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, shipped them by rail to Denison, and then trailed them to Henrietta. Unfortunately, all but one of these cattle died. The Ikard brothers bought others, however, including some animals from the royal herd that bore the brand of Queen Victoria. Also in 1876 J. F. Brady of Houston bought a bull from William Powell of Beecher, Illinois.

Later Charles Goodnight of the JA Ranch of West Texas attempted to breed Durham (shorthorn) cattle but found that they were not suited to the environment and instead switched to Herefords. He introduced Herefords into the Panhandle in 1883, when he placed twenty registered bulls on the JA Ranch. In 1884 he imported forty bulls from Herefordshire. He encouraged other ranchers to experiment in crossbreeding, and between 1882 and 1888 several thousand Hereford bulls were trailed from Dodge City to the Panhandle. In 1897 Christopher Columbus Slaughter began to stock his holdings with purebred Herefords. About 1900 Robert J. Kleberg experimented with Hereford bulls on the King Ranch in South Texas; these experiments were instrumental in eradicating the menace of Texas fever. In the late 1890s Warren Gammon and a small group of midwestern Hereford breeders developed the polled (hornless) Hereford, beginning with thirteen animals that had mutated to be naturally hornless. These breeders formed the American Polled Hereford Cattle Club in 1900. In 1947 this group changed its name to the American Polled Hereford Association; headquarters were in Kansas City, Missouri. In the early 1990s the Texas Polled Hereford Association headquarters was in Rio Vista, Texas. At that time there were about 180 polled-Hereford breeders in Texas. The American Hereford Breeders Association was formed in Chicago in 1881 for the purpose of registering purebred Hereford cattle. It became the American Hereford Association in 1934, with headquarters in Kansas City. The Texas Hereford Association originated in San Antonio during the International Livestock Exposition in 1899. In the early 1990s there were about 150 Hereford breeders in Texas.

Harley True Burton, A History of the JA Ranch (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1928; rpt., New York: Argonaut, 1966). Donald R. Ornduff, The Hereford in America (Kansas City, 1957; 2d ed. 1960). Alvin H. Sanders, The Story of the Herefords (Chicago: Breeder's Gazette, 1914).


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

Art Leatherwood, “Hereford Cattle,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 11, 2017