What Makes a Breed Angus? History, Characteristics, and Benefits
Updated: Jul 8
What Makes a Cattle Breed Angus?
Cows are cows, nothing less nothing more… right?
Each breed of cattle has its own unique characteristics, and the Angus cattle breed is no different. For example, did you know that the Texas Longhorn breed can grow a massive seven-foot horn span? Then there's the Galloway cattle breed, known for its long, wavy hair and wide white stripe that wraps around many of the cows’ midsections.
Each of the over 1,000 recognized cattle breeds in the world has its own unique features, origins, and purposes, but what makes the Angus breed stand out?
Aside from Angus being worth a premium at the grocery store and at restaurants, this five-star breed claimes many other interesting characteristics. If you want to know what they are, we are going to lay them out for you right here. In this blog, you'll find Angus facts, including breed history, size, meat quality, and benefits, plus a special note from an Angus breeder of over 26 years.
Check it out!
Let’s start with the definition. A simple definition of “Angus” from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary states it this way: “any breed of usually black hornless beef cattle originating in Scotland."
While this simple definition touches the surface of these impressive animals, the characteristics of the Angus breed go much deeper.
Angus breed info classifies the cattle as usually black, but are all black cows Angus, and are all Angus black? The truth is not all black cows are Angus, and not all Angus are Black. Let us explain. The Angus cattle breed began with standards of full black cows - only. Since then, it has grown to include a category called Red Angus. These red-coated Angus cows are virtually the same as their black relatives except for their red-brown coat color.
Another defining characteristic of the Angus cattle breed is their high-quality beef. Keep that in mind as you read because we’ll be talking about Angus beef quality later in this blog.
Origin and History of Angus Cattle
The origins history of Angus cattle started in the cold pasturelands of Scotland. Because the black Angus breed originated from the northeast Scottish territory of Aberdeen Shire, these dark-coated cattle were originally called Aberdeen Angus. It is still a name that is sometimes used today.
As a side note, consider how origin affects modern-day Angus. Bred for their hearty disposition in the cold Scottish climates of Scotland, modern-day black Angus do not tolerate heat very well, while their Red Angus relatives do better in the heat. As you can guess, the black color of Angus cattle doesn’t help either.
We don’t have a lot to go off of for Angus breed history and ancestry, but there is one cattle breed that the Encyclopedia Britannica says is a likely ancestor – the Galloways. This curly-coated Galloway cattle breed is “the oldest breed in Britain," and it shares many of the same characteristics as their Angus progeny.
Interestingly, just like the Angus breed, Galloway cattle:
· Originally had a total black coat
· Were known for their high-quality beef
· Have a history in Scotland
Angus beef cattle probably originated from the Galloway cattle breed.
What about the original black Angus bulls? There is some knowledge on them as well.
Early Angus cattle breeders of Scotland developed high standards for Angus bulls. Some of the first known Aberdeen Angus bulls include Old Jock 1, Tarnty Jock, and Bannatyne Sandy. These foundational bulls provided a strong legacy on which the following Angus breed standards would result.
Specifically, Old Jock has renown for being one of the best bulls in early Angus history and was often described as “the invincible Jock.”
“Old Jock 1 may be regarded as the foundation sire of the Ballindalloch Erica family, and through his son Angus 45, and his grandson Hantou 228, he appears largely in the pedigree of the Prides of Aberdeen."
We owe much of the breed-quality credit to the original black Angus breeders who worked to develop and shape the Angus standard of first-class beef animals that we claim today. Two such prominent men were Hugh Watson and William McCombie. These breeders and others like them in the 1800s maintained the Angus presence predominately in Scotland and Europe before the black Angus beef cattle were then introduced to America in 1873.
Angus Cattle Size
Is size really that important? Well, think of it this way, size can tell you a lot about the genetic makeup of an animal, and it can vary greatly dependent on the care the animal receives. Angus cattle, while ranking smaller in size, tend to be scale high in bulk. The Angus breed was built for overall good conformation and meat production.
Here are the approximate Angus sizes:
· Angus Heifers/Cows - 1,213 lbs
· Angus Bulls - 1,874 lbs
· Average Angus Cattle Height – 53 inches at the withers
Because Angus produce a high beef yield and yet are one of the most mild-mannered cattle breeds around, they are preferred by many beef growers in the US. Raising Angus cattle over other breeds means more bank for your buck; more meat for your work!
Facts About Certified Angus Beef
Is Angus beef better than regular beef?
If price says anything, yes.
There is a good reason for this.
There is one characteristic of Angus meat that makes it stand out from the rest, and that is - marbling. Black Angus meat quality, taste, and tenderness are really centered around the high-marbling content.
Marbling is the white flecks of fat you see can in a cross cut of high-quality meat. An even, abundant distribution of marbling in the meat is why most Angus beef steaks find a higher price tag in the grocery store. Marbling is what gives meat its rich flavor and tender texture.
For example, have you ever grilled a steak and it turned out tender and tasty? That was because of marbling. On the other hand, what if you popped a slice of beef into your mouth only to find that it was tough as a rock and pretty tasteless too? That was because of marbling too – the lack of it.
As meat with good marbling heats up, the small flecks of fat melt into the meat leaving you with a tantalizing dish of tender, juicy Angus steak. Without marbling, that same meat would be tough and dull.
So, what is the difference between Angus and regular beef? It’s all in the marbling.
Remember that there are thousands of cattle breeds out there, all with different characteristics, but Angus specifically was developed for its ability to grow highly marbled meat.
The National Angus Association recognized the value of Angus beef quality and put a 10 point standard on the beef they certify. If you are interested in learning about that, check it out here.
Angus Cattle Characteristics and Benefits - From Pat Kirk’s Perspective
When it comes to raising Angus cattle, especially during the time from calving to around six months of age, Pat Kirk is one of the best people to learn from. With over 26 years of experience working with black Angus cattle on a calf-cow farm, Pat has seen first-hand the characteristics and benefits of owning Angus cattle.
Here are 8 things Pat Kirk listed as the top qualities of black Angus:
1. Good Mothers - Angus cows are usually very good mothers. The maternal instinct of an Angus Heifer is superior. When it comes to her disposition as a protector of her calf an Angus mother can be quite aggressive towards predators compared to other breeds. This is an important trait when it comes to Iowa, where coyotes especially would love to make a meal out of newborn calves.
2. Early Breeding Age - The Angus breed also goes into puberty sooner than other breeds, only at about 13-15 months old. Because black Angus breed age is relatively quicker, turnaround time is better for production and investment purposes.
3. No Horns - It’s good to have a herd of Angus because, well, they have no horns. That means less worry about damage to things. Plus, you’ll never have to deal with getting them removed – a process that can be unpleasant.
4. Skin Color Around Eyes - Another benefit of owning Angus cattle has to do with the skin color around their eyes. Did you know that the black pigment around the eyes of Angus cattle generally means they do not get pink eye? It sure does!
5. Intelligence - Intelligence is another thing Pat Kirk put on his list of Angus breed quality traits. Over the years of observing and working with the breed, Pat believes that Angus cattle seem to be quite smart and curious too.
6. Strong Breed Association - The fact that they have a strong association that backs up the breed with pedigrees that can be tested for genetic birth defects through the DNA is another plus to the Angus traits. Pat Kirk Angus works with the National Angus association to get his calves enrolled with their Angus Link program for breed creditability.
7. Financially Rewarding - From a financial point of view, Angus cows generally bring top dollar at a sale, whether they are finished out as a beef heifer or as a steer. As you can guess, that is because of their high quality in conformation, temperament, and market weight averages.
8. Last but Not Least - Pat Kirk sums up his list with the top two benefits of Angus cattle growing in this way: “Most importantly, the enjoyment of raising Angus cattle and the quality of the meat. I don’t think you’re going to get a better steak. There’s really nothing better in my opinion.”
Where You Can Find Angus Calves
If you are interested in getting into black Angus cattle raising, check out our herd. Pat Kirk Angus raises black Angus from calving all the way till around six months of age for customers like you. He handles these tough ages to provide finishers and breeders with a superior animal ready for the next stage of life. The Pat Kirk Angus herd has a long history of closely watched, high-standard genetics and is strictly non-GMO.
Give Pat a call to find out how you can get your Angus calves!