Dexter cattle, orginally came from Ireland and have a long history with records dating from the 18th century. The Dexter breed of cattle were first introduced into Australia in the 1880's and in more recent years have seen many more see the benefits of this small dual purpose (meat and milk) breed.
They are the smallest naturally occurring cattle of the British breeds, they are not miniatures. Often the Dexter is used to minature other 'mini' breeds. The ideal height for cows ranges from 97cm to 107cm and bulls 102cm to 112cm.
Most Dexter cattle are wholly black in colour and on occassion can also be red and dun (brown). The breed is naturally horned, with polled cattle having been introduced as part of grading and selection of the breed. Many Dexter breeders remove the horns of calves (debud) when they are a couple of weeks of age, which gives them a polled look.
There are too types of Dexter cattle - non-short and short, this is not based on the height of the cattle but a gene that causes dwarfism and 'bulldog' calves when two 'short' types are bred together. The gene has been identified and is now identified by DNA test.
Registered Dexter cattle cannot be registered in the Australian herdbook without DNA testing for parentage, this ensures the purity of the breed remains, at one point the Dexter breed was listed as 'rare' and was almost to the verge of disappearing.
Many small acreage farmers have turned to the Dexter as it's size is easy to manage, they are softer on the land and an ideal converter of food. As a house cow the Dexter is ideal with high butterfat content in the milk (just below a Jersey cow and greater in individual cows) and smaller cuts of normally healthy grass fed steers for the home freezer.
Page last updated: 09 Apr 2011
© Chris Clark