Purebred Cattle

During the gold rush days, the original cattle driven into British Columbia were descendants of those driven from the Mississippi Basin, beginning in 1843, over the Oregon Trail to the valleys of western Oregon. These cattle had come from the American Midwest via Missouri and included a few purebred Shorthorns or Durhams, demonstrating the English-speaking settlers’ early attention to improved cattle breeds.

A photograph of a Hereford bull, Kalwood Domino 7B. Click to enlarge,
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Herefored bull, Kalwood Domino 7B. Courtesy of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin

This attention to breeding meant that the cattle brought to Oregon were of far superior quality to those of Texan origin. Once in Oregon, they were mixed with California cattle, some of which were from the small Spanish black breed (but not necessarily longhorns). In British Columbia, little attention was paid to breeding and the cattle of the 1870s were a mixture of types and markings.

In the late 1880s and early 1890s, the introduction of purebred cattle into these previously mixed breed herds started a significant change in the industry. While some cattlemen had imported purebred Durham Shorthorn bulls to the Interior in the 1870s, most did not consider breed improvement to be of any significant value. By the 1880s, the Shorthorn/Spanish cross cows that had originally been driven into British Columbia from Oregon were bred to Hereford bulls, and the resulting cattle were able to withstand severe winters and produce excellent beef. More and more white-faced Herefords appeared, but Durham Shorthorns (mostly a roan colour) predominated, with a few Aberdeen Angus or Galloways in the mix. Polled Angus were also popular because of their adaptability to the hot dry climate and their lack of horns, which made shipping by rail safer.

Media Files

V1999:10/001.04 – A trip through the range lands of British Columbia – 1930? “Herd of purebred Shorthorn cows with calves”
Old black and white silent movie of Shorthorn cows and calves in the Nicola Valley

A flash player with a video showing a silent movie of Shorthorn cows and calves in the Nicola Valley.

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