Cattle breeds: Beef shorthorn


The Shorthorn originated in the Tees River Valley in north-east England in the late 1700s where a breed known as Teeswater was highly valued for its beef characteristics. It evolved from a cross with a Dutch dairy type which was upgraded and was first named ‘Durham’ after the county of origin. In the middle 1800s, Scottish breeders selected animals that had increased compactness, thickness and the ability to mature and fatten at an early age, resulting in the present-day Shorthorn breed.

The breed was first introduced into New South Wales in the late 18th century and has developed into several distinct though closely related strains. These are the traditional Beef Shorthorn, the Poll Shorthorn, the Durham, the Dairy Shorthorn and the Australian Shorthorn. The Beef Shorthorn developed mainly in the safer rainfall areas of the country.


While many Beef Shorthorn herds are found in the lower rainfall areas as well as the safer rainfall areas of eastern and southern Australia, the breed has proved to be adaptable to all environments, including the Northern Territory.

Breed characteristics

Beef shorthorn bulls

Although colour ranges from red to roan to white, roan and red are the predominant colours. Beef Shorthorns are smaller in frame than other Shorthorn strains and reach maturity earlier. They have a truly rectangular shape and are horned. They are docile and are efficient foragers, best suited for the production of vealers and prime weaners. The carcase is usually prime at a young age because fat is laid down early.

Further information

For further information, contact the Beef Shorthorn Society of Australia at:

Beef shorthorn cows

Private Bag 2020
Box Hill  VIC  3128
Ph: (03) 8800 3233
Fax: (03) 9890 1379


The author thanks the Beef Shorthorn Society of Australia for their assistance in preparing this Agfact.