Breed - American Milking Shorthorn

Published on Mon, 04/25/2011 - 1:01pm

One of the oldest recognized breeds in the world, Shorthorn cattle originated in Northeastern England in the Valley of the Tees River. Much of the early improvement work took place in the counties of Northumberland, Durham and York. Shorthorns, the most numerous in the British Isles, America and Australia, are either red, red and white, white or roan, the last named color being a very close mixture of red and white, and found in no other breed of cattle. The Milking Shorthorn breed is best known for its versatility. This docile animal efficiently converts feed into milk and has a long productive life, at the end of which these large cows have a high salvage value.

Milking Shorthorns in the United States

The first importation of Shorthorns to the United States was in 1783, when “Milk Breed” Shorthorns came to Virginia. These early importations, often referred to as “Durhams”, became favorites of the pioneer, furnishing meat, milk and power.

Breeders began recording their Shorthorn cattle in 1846 with the first volume of the American Herdbook. In 1882, the American Shorthorn Breeders’ Association was formed to register and promote both Milking and Scotch (beef) Shorthorns. In 1912, a group of Milking Shorthorn breeders organized the Milking Shorthorn Club to work within the framework of the ASBA. Its membership was interested in advertising the good milk qualities of the breed by keeping official milk records and encouraging breed improvements.


One of the first official demonstrations of the production ability of Milking Shorthorns was made at the World’s Exposition in Chicago in 1893 where two of the leading cows of the test were Kitty Clay 3d and Kitty Clay 4th, the latter standing third in net profit over all breeds. These sister cows became the foundation for the Clay cow family of Milking Shorthorns, developed at Glenside Farm, Granville Center, Pennsylvania.


The American Milking Shorthorn Society (AMSS) incorporated in 1948 and took over the registration and promotion of Milking Shorthorns. In April 1950, the Milking Shorthorn office moved from Chicago to Springfield, Missouri. Milking Shorthorns were declared a dairy breed in 1969 and in 1972 became members of the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association. The Society national office moved to its present home, Beloit, Wisconsin, in 1986.


Milking Shorthorn breeders in the USA have many opportunities for improving the genetics of their animals by participating in the breed’s official production testing, type trait appraisal, gain performance, national shows and breed promotion programs.

Breeders can use semen from the breed’s highest proven bulls. Semen of high genetic value is also available from carefully selected young sires approved by the Young Sire committee. Also, two grade-up programs make it possible for anyone to bring outstanding neglected purebreds back into the Official Herdbook and to introduce the best of other internationally recognized high producing breeds into a program with rigid requirements.


It is a fact that no breed has made greater improvement during the past 15 years and even greater increases are expected in the future. Milking Shorthorns have become more dairy and angular and improved udder quality. Anyone having the opportunity to observe recent national Milking Shorthorn shows can not help but be impressed by the number of superior individuals presented which were bred by breeders from coast to coast.

The breed’s official publication is the Milking Shorthorn Journal. The first issue was published at Independence, Iowa, in March 1919. The Journal provides the most economical means for breeders to promote their individual breeding programs and advertise breeding stock for sale. Journal subscriptions are available to domestic and international readers. It is the best media to keep up to date on the many activities and programs for the improvement, expansion and promotion of Milking Shorthorns.