For many of us who didn’t grow up on a farm, we may think that a cow’s a cow. But today we wanted to introduce you to the six common breeds of dairy cows you can find on dairy farms across our country.
Holstein: Usually when someone thinks of a cow, this classic black-and-white spotted breed comes to mind. With good reason: Holsteins are the most popular type of cow in the United States. However, are not native to the Americas. The first Holstein cow was brought over from the Netherlands in the 1850s. Farmers love these cows, which weigh about 1,500 pounds, thanks to their tendency to give more milk than other breeds.
Jersey: No, this cow doesn’t hail from New Jersey, but rather the Island of Jersey, a small British isle. It’s not clear when or how they first made their way over to the New World, but odds are they were brought over thanks to their ability to give milk that’s high in protein and butterfat. (That comes in handy when making cheese.) These cows are known for their large eyes, tawny color and smaller size, averaging around 1,000 pounds.
Brown Swiss: Hailing from the Swiss Alps, the Brown Swiss is considered the oldest of all dairy cow breeds. The first one – actually seven – appeared in the United States around 1869, when they arrived in Massachusetts. You can tell this breed apart by its gray-brown coloring, large size (similar to Holsteins) and large, furry ears.
Guernsey: Meet the Guernsey: A cow that’s usually fawn or brown with white spots, averages about 1,200 pounds and hails from the Isle of Guernsey, which is found in the English Channel. The first Guernseys made their way to America by way of a Captain Belair in 1840. Like Jerseys, Guernseys give milk that’s high in butterfat; the milk’s also known for its golden color – which is due to a higher level of beta-carotene.
Ayrshire: These reddish-brown-and-white spotted cows arrived in the United States in 1822 and come from the Scottish County of Ayr. Pronounced “air-sheer,” these cows are similar in size to Guernseys and can range in color from light to deep red to brown. You may come across Ayrshires in the New England area since the environment is similar to their native Scotland.
Milking Shorthorn: While most of our dairy cow breeds came over to the United States in the 1800s, this red and white lady arrived in the 1780s. These cows hail from northeastern England, where they were originally bred to help pull wagons and other equipment.