Why Do People Think All Dairy Cows are Black and White?

June 16, 2016

While there may be six “common” dairy cow breeds in the United States, there’s one big reason most people think first of the black and white Holstein. That’s because the breed with the iconic black and white spotted pattern on their hide make up 86 percent of all the dairy cows in the country.

Ranked second is the Jersey, which makes up nearly 8 percent of dairy cows. The rest are a mix of crossbreeds, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, Guernsey and Milking Shorthorns:

  • Brown Swiss: 0.8 percent
  • Ayrshire: 0.2 percent
  • Guernsey: 0.2 percent
  • Milking Shorthorn: 0.1 percent
  • Others (including crossbreeds): 4.9 percent

The total U.S. dairy cow population is approximately 9 million.  

So, while we love all the cow breeds equally, there is a very fundamental reason the Holstein is so intertwined with dairy and milk imagery. There are just so darn many of them. 


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