Old-Time Cattle Drives… Part 1 Charolais

Well folks, I have been inspired. Chatting with a fellow employee a few days ago I was reminded that although I was blessed enough to be raised on a cow-calf operation and then continued my love for agriculture with a degree in animal science, not everyone understands the differences in cattle breeds. As a granddaughter of a very proud Charolais breeder I know that cattlemen and women have a strong pride with the cattle breed of their choice. Let’s be honest cattle breeds for ranchers are kind of like baseball teams with frat boys (and me). No matter how many times the Yankees have won the World Series I refuse to support them against any other  Major League team (except for the Red Sox of course). This is often the case with cattle ranchers, no matter how efficient or successful the breed has been proven, more times than not they won’t support a differing breed than they raise. So, as I was “shootin’ the breeze” I found myself trying to explain some pretty basic things about a certain type of cattle breed. This folks, is where it hit me. Like a thunderstorm on a sunny Oklahoma afternoon, it just hit me. As an animal science graduate I think it is my duty, no my responsibility, to do my part to spread a little positive recognition for a few different cattle breeds.

As I began brainstorming for this segment of posts I tried to put myself in the place of ‘city folk’. I asked myself if I hadn’t been raised on a farm what would come to mind when I thought of cattle? John Wayne in Red River was my first thought. I mean almost everyone knows John Wayne right? If not, well they should. The point is, the Hollywood portrayal of agriculture is probably the most that anyone not raised on a farm would know. The Hollywood cattle drive, although historically based is not the entire story, and it most definitely does not represent all types of cattle breeds.


As I’ve already mentioned I was raised on a primarily Charolais cattle operation, because of this I figured it only appropriate to start this segment with the Charolais. Unlike Hereford or Longhorn cattle the Charolais is not a breed portrayed by Hollywood in American western movies. This large to medium framed, white haired cattle breed is not what a majority of Americans would think of when imagining old-time cattle drives.

Originally from France, these cattle were established around Central France and became regarded as a producer of highly rated meat in French markets, according to the American International Charolais Association. Charolais began the journey overseas after the First World War when a young Mexican industrialist, Jean Pugibet, took some Charolais to his ranch in Mexico. He had seen the cattle during World War I and was impressed by their appearance and productivity. From Mexico the first Charolais came in 1934. The breed grew rapidly as American cattlemen admired both the Charolais bulls and females for their muscling, correctness and size. Charolais cattle have demonstrated a definite superiority in growth ability, efficient feedlot gains, and carcass cut-out values. Today, Charolais top all breeds in nearly every category of performance in the records of beef performance testing organizaitons, according to AICA.

Charolais is a naturally horned beef animal, but through a breeding up program, using other breeds carrying the polled gene, polled (or not horned for those of you who don’t know cattle jargon) Charolais emerged. Some of the breeds strongest herds and leading breeders specialize in the production of high-performing polled Charolais.

Charolais are a generally lean beef breed. Known for muscularity, high productivity and growth Charolais are a great source of lean beef for the market place. However, when crossed with a breed more commonly known for marbling, such as Angus, the crossbred offspring are shown to have a quite high-quality cut of beef.  Charolais are generally easy calvers with strong maternal instincts. Both bulls and females can grow to large weights ranging from 1,250 to 2,500 pounds and are relatively easily adapted to various environments.

IMG_3597(Oh and they love feed time in the winter)

Now folks, I’m aware this is only a drop-in-the-bucket for the information about this breed. But hopefully this gives at least a small insight into the breed that some people may have never known.

For more information you can visit these sites (The above information was cited from the following sites.):

American International Charolais Association


Oklahoma State University Department of Animal Science


Cattle Today


The Beef Site


I’d like to hear your thoughts on what breeds you would like to see featured in this segment! Thanks!

Love, K


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