The Hereford is a distinctive British breed of beef cattle with dark red hair and a cream or white face. Originally from Herefordshire in the West Midlands, it can now be found in many countries.
There are more than five million purebred Hereford cattle in over fifty nations worldwide.
The Hereford has evolved from the indigenous Red Cattle, which roamed the Welsh Border counties and the western extremities of England. It is generally agreed that it is descended from the small draught ox used in Roman Britain and from a large Welsh breed once common along the border of England and Wales.
The Hereford's ancestors were originally used to pull ploughs and carts, before draught horses became more affordable for the ordinary farmer.
Over many generations the climate and clay soils, together with the general poverty of Herefordshire, meant that the main crop was grass, so the cattle that came out of the area were well adapted to an almost exclusively grass diet and therefore they were cheaper to keep.
In the 1700s individual Herefords began to be selected for their beef characteristics rather than for those of a good plough ox. Herefords were sold at numerous fairs, the largest one being the Hereford October Fair held in Hereford.
During the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) Herefords were fetching higher prices than some of the more popular breeds such as the Shorthorn, and there was an increased interest in the breed.
The Hereford's hardiness and adaptability to many climates and environments has led to its success as an international breed - though, as redheads - they can be susceptible to sunburn. They are also known for their good temperaments and fertility, and are long-lived.
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