Types of Cows

Just like dogs or horses, there are many different breeds and types of cows. What does the word breed mean? A breed is a group of animals with a similar appearance and behavior. The two most recognized and well-known breeds of dairy cattle are the Holstein cow and the Jersey cow. Learn more about each type of cow below!

HOLSTEIN COW

Meet the Holstein cow! She is the best known of the types of cows belonging to the dairy breeds, with her black-and-white spotted body.

Characteristics: Holstein cows are large in size, weighing about 1,500 pounds in maturity.

History: The Holstein cow originated from the Netherlands, and was first imported to the United States in the 1850s.

Fun Fact: No two Holstein cows have the same spots!

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JERSEY COW

Meet the Jersey cow! Known for her large eyes and brown color, Jerseys also give milk that is high in butterfat.

Characteristics: These are the types of cows which are typically light to medium brown in color, though this can range from being almost grey to dull black. She is small in size, weighing about 1,000 pounds in maturity. She has a broad face with prominent eyes and long eyelashes which endears this breed to many people.

History: The Jersey cow originated from the Island of Jersey, a small British Island in the English Channel.

Fun Fact: In the 1930s, the Borden Co. introduced Elsie the Cow, a Jersey!

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BROWN SWISS

Meet the Brown Swiss cow! Many dairy historians consider the breed to be the oldest of all the types of milk cows, or dairy breeds.

Characteristics: The Brown Swiss cow has a gray-brown coloring. She is large in size, weighing about 1,500 pounds in maturity.

History: The Brown Swiss originated in Switzerland. Many dairy historians consider the breed to be the oldest of all the types of milk cows.

Fun Fact: Brown Swiss cows in Switzerland are taken to high mountain meadows during the summer. The cows wear large cow bells so farmers can find them in foggy mountain pastures.

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GUERNSEY

Meet the Guernsey cow! She is brown or fawn with white spots of various sizes on the body or face.

Characteristics: The Guernsey types of cows are brown or fawn with white spots of various sizes on the body or face. She is medium in size, weighing about 1,200 pounds in maturity.

History: The Guernsey originated from the Isle of Guernsey, a tiny island in the English Channel.

Fun Fact: Since the 1950s, Golden Guernsey trademark milk has been sold in the U.S. and Canada as a premium product.

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AYRSHIRE

Meet the Ayrshire cow! She has reddish-brown mahogany colored spots on a white body.

Characteristics: The Ayrshire cow is marked by reddish-brown mahogany colored spots on a white body. These type of cows are medium in size, weighing about 1,200 pounds in maturity.

History: The Ayrshire originated from the county of Ayr in Scotland.

Fun Fact: Historically, these types of cows were known for their horns, which could reach over a foot in length, and curved gracefully.

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RED AND WHITE HOLSTEIN

Meet the Red and White Holstein cow! This breed is the most recently recognized, coming into the breed family in 1964.

Characteristics: The Red and White cow is marked by red and white spots. She is large in frame, weighing about 1,400 pounds in maturity.

History: She originated in the U.S. and Canada when farmers started selecting for the recessive red hair color trait of Holsteins.

Fun Fact: This breed is the most recently recognized, coming into the breed family in 1964.

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MILKING SHORTHORN

Meet the Milking Shorthorn cow! The breed was one of the first to enter the U.S., early in the 1780’s.

Characteristics: The Milking Shorthorn is a red; red and white; or white and roan color. She is medium in size, weighing about 1,100 pounds in maturity.

History: The Milking Shorthorn originated from Northeastern England in the valley of the Tees River. The breed was one of the first to enter the U.S., early in the 1780’s.

Fun Fact: The breed has served as part of the foundation for other red types of milk cows, including Swedish Red cattle, Angeln cattle and Illawarra cattle in Australia.

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Famous Cows of the World

  • Elsie the Borden Cow: The unofficial mascot of the Borden Company, now primarily used to promote the Borden dairy products from the Dairy Farmers of America.
  • Clarabelle: Created by Disney Studios in 1928; she is Horace Horsecollar’s girlfriend and one of Minnie Mouse’s best friends.
  • Ada the Ayrshire: Cartoon cow in early Farm Journals.
  • Elm Farm Ollie: In 1930, the first cow to fly in an airplane.
  • Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow: She was said to have kicked over a lantern on the evening of October 8, 1871, thus starting the Great Chicago Fire, an act for which she has since been exonerated.
  • The Laughing Cow: Advertising mascot of Laughing Cow cheese.
  • Lani Moo: Since 1921, advertising mascot cow of Hawaii Gold Meadow Dairy.
  • Little Witch: World’s fastest race cow; she won the 2004 World Wide Cow Racing Association’s Udder Race running a mile in 9:18:12.
  • Norman: Calf, then adult steer, who appeared with Billy Crystal in the movies City Slickers and City Slickers 2.
  • Pauline: President Taft’s cow, the last cow to live at the White House.
  • Minnie Moo: A famous Holstein cow at Disney World whose claim to fame was having spots shaped like Mickey Mouse on her side.
  • Chatty Belle: World’s largest talking cow In Neillsville, Wis.
  • Penny the Cow: Locally known as the educational cow at the Pa. Farm Show.
  • Turkey Hill Cow: The famous traveling mascot of Turkey Hill!