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Rare Cattle Breeds

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Most people in the U.S. only see cows when they’re on a road trip or watching a T.V. show. We drink a ton of milk and eat a lot of beef, but we don’t get much experience with the animals that make them.

Hundreds of cow breeds exist today, but there’s no official tally on how many types of cows exist. This is because there are so many crossbreeding programs worldwide, making it hard to track breeds.

When you start exploring different cattle breeds, you’ll inevitably come across some types of bulls and cows you never knew existed. They may not be prized for their meat or milk, but they look majestic, which is why a lot of smaller farmers or homesteaders love to keep them.

Here are some of the rarest cattle breeds you can find, with some information to help you learn more about them.

Grazing highland cattle in Isle of Skye, Scotland

What Is the Weirdest-Looking Cow?

Deciding which cow looks the weirdest is subjective, but Highland Cattle will be near or at the top of most people’s lists. This shaggy cow is rare and looks like something from a Disney movie. But, lately, it’s gotten attention as a meme sensation on the internet.

Highland cattle are from Scotland in the U.K. Their name suggests that they are native to highland terrain on the northwestern coast. They have a double coat that keeps them warm in windy and cold weather. People love their shaggy coat that droops over their horns and face.

a famos porcelain white chianinas breeding bull on pasture in Holland

What Is the Strongest Breed of Cattle?

The Chianina is an Italian cattle breed that is the largest cattle in the world. They’re an old breed that can survive various climates, but they’re primarily found in plains where they pulled wagons, farming equipment, and other heavy loads.

Cattle farmers and breeders incorporate Chianina into their breeding programs to produce larger, meatier animals. They also don’t have very many calving issues because they have small horns and heads in relation to their large bodies.

Their defined muscles are fantastic for delicious, marbled beef, making them a prized breed worldwide. Chianina cattle are now relatively common in the United States, Canada, and other countries with well-developed cattle industries.

Dutch Holstein black and white cow in a meadow

What Is the Prettiest Cow?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, it’s hard to definitively say which type of cow is the prettiest in the world. However, most prizes for the prettiest cow, whether in Germany, Canada, or elsewhere, often go to Holstein cows.

These cows are by no means rare. They’re just the cows people love to look at. Holsteins are your quintessential white and black milk cow that you see at dairy farms worldwide. They are gentle animals that live long and produce a good deal of milk annually.

They have shiny coats and bright white spots that contrast the black beautifully. Prize-winning Holsteins are prized animals and command high prices at auctions.

Small herd of white Brahman bulls on green pasture

What Breed of Cattle Is the Smartest?

Brahmans are generally regarded as one of if not the smartest cattle breed in the world! They’re also gentle animals, making them easy to work with on farms or homesteads. In addition, Brahman cattle recognize humans and are intelligent enough to learn behaviors and react to commands.

However, Brahman cattle are typically shy. They’re also inquisitive and become more willing to engage as they mature. In addition, they can adapt to different climates and are medium-sized, which makes them perfect for farming.

Rare Breeds of Cattle

The Texas Longhorn

The Texas Longhorn in Pasture

The Texas Longhorn is a famous cattle breed, but it’s also relatively rare because they’re so hard to accommodate. Those large horns don’t fit in many places, especially in fully-grown adult bulls.

Their horns grow straight sideways for several feet before curling up in the air. Unfortunately, they’re also very large cattle, which makes some farmers and homesteaders hesitant to own them.

They usually have a unique coat that is a mix of red, brown, and white, and the Longhorn is the mascot of schools across Texas.

This breed produces high-quality lean meat. However, their size and horns make them a hard choice for beef farming on a large scale.

White Park Cattle

Rare breed White Park cattle resting in a Wiltshire pasture

White Park cattle are hard to find. When you drive across the country, you don’t see too many white cows that aren’t Holsteins speckled with black. The White Park is a large and athletic breed that can reach up to 2,000 pounds.

They came to America during the Second World War as part of a British program designed to preserve certain animals and other national icons. There are still active efforts in the U.S. to conserve White Park herds.

Irish Moiled Cattle


Ireland is home to one of the world’s rarest cattle breeds. The Irish Moiled is mostly used for milk and cheese production, but it’s also got tons of high-quality beef. Farmers like this breed because they’re adapted to surviving on low-quality pastures and other harsher conditions.

In the 1900s, the breed experienced a significant population dip. At one point, only two breeders in Ireland had the cows. Now, over forty breeders are keeping the Irish Moiled alive.

They have beautiful red and white coats with a unique white line running down their backs. They are docile animals that are easy to manage on a farm or homestead.

Belgian Blue Cattle

A Belgian Blue bull, grazing in the meadow

Belgian Blues are massive cows. They have defined muscles that make them weigh up to 2,700 pounds. Their imposing shoulders and white and blue coats make them a sight to behold.

This is a prized breed for beef farmers. They also have high fertility rates and shorter gestation windows, which means more profits and easier growth for farmers. Currently, there are Belgian Blues in the U.S., New Zealand, and other beef farming locations.

Mini Zebu Cattle

Miniature Zebu in the farm with fence on the background

Mini Zebus are some of the smallest cattle in the world. Bred for thousands of years, they’re now small enough that most people keep them as pets. Unfortunately, they’re not well-suited for meat or dairy production.

They are typically mostly white with black around their heads and necks. They often have friendly personalities, which makes them good pets for small farms or homesteaders with kids. Mini Zebus enjoy being around humans and will bond quickly with their owners.

Dexter Cattle

Lone Brown Dexter Bull standing in field in the Scottish Highlands

Dexter cattle aren’t necessarily the rarest breed in terms of absolute numbers. However, it’s one of the rare intelligent cattle breeds that double as pets. These are incredibly smart cows that can learn to obey commands. You can call them over or tell them to stay put. Many farmers name their Dexter cows and discover the animals know when they are called.

Plenty of people love having these cows around because they’re gentle and do well on any farm. They’re great as dairy cows or for beef production.

Final Thoughts

Remember, rare cows in the United States may not be rare in other countries. Each area has unique climates that make certain breeds more suitable. Learning about international cattle breeds can help you discover new animals you may want on your farm or homestead. Please do your research and see what it takes to find them at home or bring them into the country.