They come in two varieties―the Black and the Red Angus Cows. The black Angus cow has been more common in this variety. But the recessive red variety has also been developed recently, from those that were born in the registered black herds.
The Angus was first bred in the latter part of the 18th century in Scotland by Hugh Jackson. He used the hornless cattle that were native of the Angus and Aberdeenshire counties of Scotland. These were known as the Angus doddies. By this time, these breeds were being used for improving other regional breeds as well.
Both the red and the black varieties were used equally for the breeding program. These cows were first imported into the US by George Grant in May, 1873. He brought 4 Angus bulls to Victoria, Kansas. The hornless varieties were initially received with considerable skepticism, as the Longhorns and the Shorthorns were popular in those days.
However, the off-springs fathered by the bulls impressed American breeders. Soon, more Angus cattle were being brought into America for raising herds of pure breed.
● The popularity of the Angus cow in crossbreeding comes from the fact that these cow breeds reduce the incidence of dystocia in the resulting breed. Dystocia is the medical term used for difficult or abnormal labor or childbirth.
● Their dehorned trait is desirable, and Angus cows pass on this trait as a dominant gene. This means that any offspring, whether a pure breed or mixed breed will be naturally polled.
● The good quality beef that these cows provide make them a sought after breed in the fast food industry. The first large-scale product based on the Angus beef that was sold in the US was the Back Yard Burger in 2002. This was followed by the other food chains like Hardee's, Harvey's (Canada-based), and then McDonalds who launched products based on Angus beef.
All the companies got a positive response from their customers for the products that they used. The cows were now being bred in Australia as well. McDonalds in Australia also had great success with their burgers in which they used the Angus beef.
● The black and red varieties are recorded under one registry. However, in the United States, the two varieties are registered separately.
Despite all the positive features, this breed is susceptible to certain genetic disorders. Curly calf or Arthrogry-posis Multiplex (AM) is one of them. This is a lethal disorder in which calves are born with a bent or curved spine. The calves are small. They have rigid legs that may be overly extended (specially the hind legs) or too contracted.
It is the rigid limbs that give rise to calving problems. This is a recessive trait, which means that both the parents of the calf should carry the mutated gene. Another common genetic disorder is the water head disease or Neuropathic Hydrocephalus (NH).
In this condition, the calf is born new term, weighs 25-35 pounds at birth, and has a large head that is almost the same size as a volleyball. When the skull is opened after the death of the calf, it is found to be full of fluid. There is hardly any brain tissue. Like Arthrogry-posis Multiplex (AM), this genetic disorder is also lethal and recessive.
Angus cows are now the most popular cow breed for beef. The Black Angus was the first beef breed, the products of which were differentiated by the American Angus Association through the Certified Angus Beef program started in 1978 . At present, it is the largest branded beef product program in the world.