How Red Angus Cattle developed in America

Red Angus Cattle

The Red Angus breed had its beginning in Europe, much like most modern American beef breeds. In the eighth-century, Norseman raiding the coasts of England and Scotland brought with them a small hornless cattle which interbred with black native Celtic cattle of Scotland. A naturally polled black breed was produced, which roughly corresponded to the black Aberdeen Angus of today.


Eric L.C. Pentecost, a noted English breeder of Red Angus cattle, gives a specific explanation for the introduction of the red coloration into the Aberdeen Angus breed. In the eighteenth century, the black Scottish cattle were too light to provide large draught oxen, so larger English Longhorns, which are red in color, were crossed with the black native breed. The results were all black polled animals, due to black being a dominant color, and red a recessive one. All of the animals carried the red gene, however. Interbreeding produced an average of one red calf in four.

Early in the development of the Aberdeen Angus, Hugh Watson of Keillor, Scottland decided that black was the proper color of the breed. Leon J. Cole and Sara V. H Jones of the University of Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station published this paragraph in a 1920 pamphlet on “The Occurrence of Red calves in Black Breeds of Cattle.”

“One more point should be emphasized, namely that the red individuals appearing in such stock (Aberdeen Angus)...are just as truly ‘purebred’ as their black relatives, and there is no reason why, in all respects save color, they should not be fully as valuable. The fact that they are discarded while the blacks are retained is simply due to the turn of fortune that black rather than red became established fashion for the Aberdeen Angus breed. Had red been the chosen color, there would never have been any trouble with the appearance of blacks as off-color individuals, since red-to-red breeds true.”

In 1945 the first cattlemen throughout the United States began selecting and breeding reds cropped from the best black Aberdeen Angus herds in America. By 1954, a number of herds had been established to form a breeder’s organization known as the “Red Angus Association of America.”

Seven cattle breeders created the association which was the first performance breed registry in the United States. The Association’s first president, Waldo Forbes, Sr., explained the vision the founding members had.

“The policy of the (Red Angus) Association is to discourage the more artificial practices in purebred cattle production... and to place its faith instead in objective tests, consisting for the most part of comparisons within herds of factors of known economic importance and known heritability... By making this an integral part of the registration system, Red Angus breeders feel that even faster progress can be made toward the ultimate goal of more efficient beef production.”

The Red Angus has natural advantages that the breed is endowed with. Red is the most populous color of cattle breeds worldwide, and the Red Angus provides continuity and uniformity of color to a crossbreeding system. Red is far more heat tolerant than the black. Being crossed red always breeds true, because Red Angus carries no diluter genes and thus avoid the grays that result when crossbreeding with black cattle.

The future of the breed as the common denominator in progressive cattle producers’ crossbreeding systems is unlimited. As Joseph Givhan, founding RAAA member, shared in his early publication on the breed’s history...

“Here is a noble breed that will never die, destined to increase and flourish. It shall cover the grazing lands of the earth and forever enrich the husbandry of mankind.”

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