Dairy Shorthorn cattle breed is a worldwide critically-endangered dual-purpose (ie. milk and beef) breed of cattle, whose numbers have been reduced to 300 registered breeding females in Britain, their country of origin and 200 in Australia.
The origins of Shorthorn cattle can be traced back to the 16th Century in Britain in the County of Durham. They are the oldest pedigree-registered breed in the world. In the 18th Century, the breeders favoured either their cattle’s propensity for meat or milk: “those for the hook, and those for the pail” – thus the breed was separated into two distinct entities: Dairy shorthorns and beef shorthorns. Historically the breed was present in large numbers in NSW prior to 1873. Currently there are registered pedigree herds in NSW, the ACT, Tasmania and Victoria.
The dairy shorthorn is endangered as the dairy industry continues to standardise by moving to large-scale dairies and a single breed of cattle.