For those who don’t know much about the American Brahman, you might recognize it as the cow with the big, long, almost flappy ears. This cow, although called the American Brahman, has in fact little or no American roots at all.
This cattle breed was developed from the Zebu cattle of Asia, selectively bred from five breeds of Indian cattle. These include the Gir, Gujarat, Ongole and Kankrej breeds. The breed itself gets its name for the people who loved them most, hindu priests. These men were called Brahmins and worshipped the breed as sacred animals.
The American Brahman was one of the first ever beef cattle breeds in the US. It resulted as the crossing of the above mentioned Indian breeds in the early 1900’s. Some reports mention the first record of the breed in the US as far back as 1854.
The characteristics of this breed is what makes it different from all the rest. Very few other cattle breeds can compare to the Brahman in terms of durability. The breed can withstand extreme temperatures with ease. This is due to it’s dark skin pigmentation which helps filter out intense sun rays, this also means cancer is very uncommon in the Brahman.
They also have the ability to loosen their skin in times of warm weather. This helps increase the body surface area for cooling. In cold weather the loose skin is contracted increase hide thickness and thus protect them against the harsh cold. They also grow thick, dense hair in winter which also helps maintain body heat. In summer their hair is short, thick and glossy which helps reflect sun rays. Essentially they can cope with almost whatever mother nature throws at them.
Again their durability cannot be questioned, the Brahman have the ability to travel lengthy distances for food and water. This enables them to better utilize lower quality feeds. They are one of the only bovine breeds capable of sweating freely. This is due to their highly developed sweat glands.
Brahman cows are the mothers of all mothers. They have a significantly longer life expectancy than other breeds and can reproduce well into their late teens. Brahman are extremely fertile animals and tend to have a high libido. Females also have increased milk production, which enables calves to increase weight gains. This may be why hybrid cross breeds tend to have extremely fast weight gains. They breed is perfectly suited to beef production as they grow quick and finish early.
Male Brahman tend to weigh between 800 to 1,100 kgs, while females weigh between 500 to 700 kgs. Calves at birth weigh between 27 to 30 kgs and as mentioned above they have fast daily weight gain.They have great carcass quality also, with high muscle content and low fat levels. To go with this they have a high dressing percentage and a good ‘cut out’ value.
Appearance and Temperament:
As mentioned above, the American Brahman is probably most recognizable for its long, large, dangling ears. As well as this they have a large hump over their shoulders, almost ox-like.
They also have a very visible throatlatch, common to Indian breeds, and have large portions of excess neck skin. American brahmans have horns with an upward curve. These can sometimes be tilted back towards the rear of the animal.
Colour wise the Brahman can vary from light grey to red to black. A majority of the breed are usually light to medium grey in colour. Mature bulls though are darker in colour, usually with dark patches on their neck.
A big gentle giant, affectionate and very docile when handled well. In fact the breed responds very quickly indeed to handling, whether that’s correct or incorrect. Although gentle and very docile by nature, mature bulls can become aggressive and should be handled with caution.
More durable breeds? It’s doubtful there are any. This gentle giant with a large hump and long, floppy ears is perhaps the breeds of all breeds. Docile, great mothers, increased milk production and excellent beef finishers. It’s easy to see why the Hindu priests of India worshipped this animal, as the Brahman is the champion of all breeds.