THE SHORT HORN
The Short Horn breed of cattle as described in writings around the 1864 time frame.
No breed of cattle has commanded more universal admiration during the last
half century than the improved short horns, whose origin can be traced back for nearly a hundred years. According
to the best authorities, the stock which formed the basis of improvement existed equally in Yorkshire,
Lincolnshire, Northumberland, and the adjoining counties; and the pre-eminence was accorded to Durham, which gave
its name to the race, from the more correct principles of breeding which seem to have obtained there.
There is a dispute among the most eminent breeders as to how far it
owes its origin to early importations from Holland, whence many superior animals were brought for the purpose of
improving the old long horned breed. A large race of cattle had existed for many years on the western shores of the
continent of Europe. As early as 1633, they were imported from Denmark into New England in considerable numbers,
and thus laid the foundation of a valuable stock in farming at a very early date in Holland, and experience led to
the greatest care in the choice and breeding of dairy stock. From these cattle many selections were made to cross
over to the counties of York and Durham. The prevailing color of the large Dutch cattle was black and white,
A SHORT HORN BULL
The cattle produced by these crosses a century ago were known by the name of "Dutch."
The cows selected for crossing with the early imported Dutch bulls were generally long horned, large boned, coarse
animals, a fair type of which was found in the old "Holderness" breed of Yorkshire, slow feeders, strong in the
shoulder, defective in the fore quarter, and not very profitable to the butcher, their meat being coarse and
uninviting. Their milking qualities were good, surpassing those, probably, of the improved short horns. Whatever
may be the truth with regard to these crosses, and however far they proved effective in creating or laying the
foundation of the modern improved short horns, the results of the efforts made in Yorkshire and some of the
adjoining counties were never so satisfactory to the best judges as those of the breeders along the Tees, who
selected animals with greater reference to fineness of bone and symmetry of form, and the animals they bred soon
took the lead and excited great emulation in improvement.
Importations of short horns have been frequent and extensive into the United States
within the last few years, and this famous breed is now pretty generally diffused over the country.
The high-bred short horn is easily prepared for a show, and, as fat will cover faults,
the temptation is often too great to be resisted; and hence it is not uncommon to see the finest animals rendered
unfit for breeding purposes by over-feeding. The race is susceptible of breeding for the production of milk, as
several families show, and great milkers have often been known among pure-bred animals; but it is more common to
find it bred mainly for the butcher, and kept accordingly. It is, however, a well-known fact, that the dairies of
London are stocked chiefly with short horns and Yorkshires, or high grades between them, which, after being milked
as long as profitable, feed equal, or nearly so, to pure-bred short horns. It has been said, by very good
authority, that the short horns improve every breed with which they cross.
The desirable characteristics of the short horn bull may be summed up, according to the
judgment of the best breeders, as follows: He should have a short but fine head, very broad across the eyes,
tapering to the nose, with a nostril full and prominent; the nose itself should be of a rich flesh color; eyes
bright and mild; ears somewhat large and thin; horns slightly covered and rather flat, well set on; a long, broad,
muscular neck; chest wide, deep, and projecting; shoulders fine, oblique, well formed into the chine; fore legs
short, with upper arm large and powerful; barrel round, deep, well-ribbed horns; hips wide and level; back straight
from the withers to the setting on of the tail, but short from hips to chine; skin soft and velvety to the touch;
moderately thick hair, plentiful, soft, and mossy. The cow has the same points in the main, but her head is finer,
longer, and more tapering; neck thinner and lighter, and shoulders more narrow across the chine.
The astonishing precocity of the short horns, their remarkable aptitude to fatten, the
perfection of their forms, and the fineness of their bony structure, give them an advantage over most other races
when the object of breeding is for the shambles. No animal of any other breed can so rapidly transform the stock of
any section around him as the improved short horn bull.
It does not, however, follow that the high-bred short horns are unexceptionable, even
for beef. The very exaggeration, so to speak, of the qualities which make them so valuable for the improvement of
other and less perfect races, may become a fault when wanted for the table. The very rapidity with which they
increase in size is thought by some to prevent their meat from ripening up sufficiently before being hurried off to
the butcher. The disproportion of the fatty to the muscular flesh, found in this to a greater extent than in races
coming more slowly to maturity, makes the meat of the thorough-bred short horn, in the estimation of some, less
agreeable to the taste, and less profitable to the consumer; since the nitrogenous compounds, true sources of
nutriment, are found in less quantity than in the meat of animals not so highly bred.
In sections where the climate is moist, and the food abundant and rich, some families
of the short horns may be valuable for the dairy; but they are most frequently bred exclusively for beef in this
country, and in sections where they have attained the highest perfection of form and beauty, so little is thought
of their milking qualities that they are often not milked at all, the calf being allowed to run with the dam.