There are basically two types of cattle in the world today. One includes the European and British breeds that descended from the original wild cattle (Bos taurus) of those regions. The other includes the more heat-tolerant animals of the tropics (the hump-backed droopy-eared Zebu cattle, Bos indicus) that include the cattle of India, Asia and Africa). Almost all cattle breeds in the U.S. today are of British and European descent, but many ranchers in the South and Southwest prefer cattle with some Zebu breeding because they are more suited to that environment.

The American Brahman was developed from several strains of cattle imported from India between 1854 and 1926, and from imported Zebu cattle from Brazil. Since then, several American breeds and composites have been created using Brahman bloodlines, including Santa Gertrudis, Brangus, Beefmaster, etc.

Dr. Jan Bonsma of South Africa was a famous cattle geneticist and student of breed efficiency, selecting cattle for the most functional traits. He was involved in the development of two new breeds, the Bonsmara and the Beefmaster. He developed the Bonsmara by crossing native Afrikaner cattle (Zebu) with Hereford and Shorthorn to develop a hardier animal than the British breeds, with better beef quality and fertility than the Zebu. Today the Bonsmara breed he created is the most numerous breed in South Africa and these cattle have been imported to other countries around the world including the U.S.

Bonsma’s concept of functional efficiency in cattle was that we need to adapt the cattle to their environment, and not the other way around. He was an advisor to Tom Lasater, who created Beefmaster cattle in the U.S. Bonsma’s principles of functional efficiency and Lasater’s six essentials of Beefmaster breeding created a type of cattle that can adapt to harsh environments and efficiently convert grass to a well-muscled meat carcass.

Beefmaster cattle were the first American composite breed (combination of three or more breeds). In the early 1930’s, Lasater developed this blend of breeds in southern Texas. Beefmasters are a composite made up of roughly one-half Bos Taurus genetics using Hereford and Shorthorn, and one-half Bos Indicus genetics (Brahman).

The American Brahman was created earlier by using Nelore cattle from Brazil (a Zebu type that came originally from India), the Gir (a dairy breed from India) and the Guzerat--a breed developed in Brazil from the Kankrej cattle imported into Brazil from India between 1875 and 1964. The Guzerat was very instrumental in creation of the American Brahman.

The blend of British breeds with zebu type cattle (providing more heat tolerance and insect resistance) to create the Beefmaster was of great benefit to cattle raisers in Texas and other southern regions of North America. In 1937, Lasater closed his herd and no outside genetics have been introduced into the breed since that time. In

1954, the Beefmaster breed was recognized by the USDA as an American breed. Currently, Beefmaster Breeders United is the fifth-largest breed registry in the U.S. Over the last 70 years, intense selection for economically important traits has resulted in a homozygous beef breed that has the growth potential of a hybrid.

Lasater selected cattle on what he called the six essentials of disposition, fertility, weight, conformation, milk production, and hardiness. Today’s Beefmaster breeders also select for calving ease, fast early growth, moderate frame, easy fleshing ability and longevity. Adhering to Lasater’s six essentials make these additional goals easier and faster to accomplish.

Beefmaster cattle have strong maternal traits as well as excellent growth and carcass traits. They are well known for their ability to handle heat and drought, with more insect resistance than most British and European breeds. They tend to be moderate in size, and generally light red to dark red in color, although some have white mottling on their faces and underline. The blend of Zebu and Bos taurus creates the most hybrid vigor of any cattle cross because these types are so unrelated. The blend has created “super” cows.