The Origins of Herefords
The Hereford breed originated in the township of Hereford, in the county of Herefordshire, England, nearly 300 years ago. The farmers needed a beef cow which could efficiently convert grass to pounds of beef, and do it at a profit, so they developed the Hereford. Benjamin Tompkins is the man who is considered to be the primary founder of the breed. The breed was selected and bred for their natural ability to grow and gain on grass and grain. They were also bred and selected for their rustling ability, hardiness, early maturity, and high reproduction rates.
Herefords in the 1700's and early 1800's were much larger than they are today. In fact, many mature Herefords were the size of Oxen, and could weigh up to 3,000 pounds! The Hereford breed has gone through many changes through the decades. They have seen extreme downsizing, "re"-upsizing, and have varied in their overall look and appearance. Today's Herefords are optimum size cattle that fit today's industry. They are less extreme in their size and weight, weighing about 1,000 to 1,200 pounds (for an average cow), which results in quality and efficiency.
Herefords in America
Herefords were first brought into the United States in 1817, by the Kentucky Statesman, Henry Clay. He purchased a bull and two females, and even though the cattle attracted considerable attention, they were eventually absorbed by the local cattle population. Then, in 1840, William Sotham and Erastus Corning, of Albany New York, established the first recorded breeding herd in America. Herefords soon began to spread across the United States as her population expanded and the demand for beef increased. The popularity of the breed and their reputation for being outstanding beef cattle reached a pinnacle in 1876 when Herefords were awarded "First Prize Herd" at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. While only 200 head were imported up to 1880, more than 3,500 Herefords came over during the 1880 to 1889 period. On June 22, 1881, the American Hereford Association was formed.
Herefords soon became a common sight on large cattle ranches in the west. They proved they could survive the test of rough ranching conditions, extreme temperatures, poor forage, and they continued to improve the quality of beef along the way. For these reasons the Hereford cattle were soon given the name "The Great Improvers", and title which still stands today.
Polled Herefords (Naturally Hornless!)
American's were responsible for developing the Polled Hereford breed. In 1898, an Iowa cattleman by the name of Warren Gammon saw an exposition of "naturally hornless" Herefords at the Trans- Mississippi World's Fair in Omaha Nebraska. He set about to "fix" the hornless trait using the bull "Giant" and 11 females. From his efforts came about the establishment of the Polled Hereford breed and the American Polled Hereford Association. In 1995 the American Hereford and American Polled Hereford Associations merged into one.
Today the versatile Hereford, and Polled Hereford cattle continue to be the benchmark against which all other breeds are measured (Yes, even Angus) as cattlemen continue to seek the optimum traits inherent in Herefords. Those traits critical to survival in the cattle business are exactly the same traits Herefords offer in today's industry.
Optimum size and growth
Documented feedlot and carcass superiority
Low maintenance costs
Adaptability and hardness