How to Identify a Hereford Cows and Hereford Bulls

How to Identify a Hereford Cows and Hereford Bulls

Date posted: 06/06/2017

How To Identify A Hereford


If you’re looking at expanding into the beef market, going for Herefords is a good choice. But how do you know what one looks like without asking someone?  If you went to a cattle auction, would you be able to tell a Hereford from an Angus or Brahman? 


This guide should tell you all you need to know about picking a Hereford out of a herd of cattle.  Often Herefords are confused with Limousine and Simmental cattle from a distance, due to similar colourations and/or body shapes.  Herefords are usually smaller than these other breeds though.



The first thing you’ll be looking for is their colour.  Hereford cows are always a combination of red and white.  The shade of red is anywhere from a deep red (like a cherry) to a more burnt-orange red.  Any other colour (such as black), and you’re looking at a different breed.  It also depends on “where” the colours are.  A Hereford is usually red on top, and white from the face to the belly.  Also a Hereford usually has four white “stockings” on its feet.  How much white vs red, will depend on the cow itself.  But a general rule of thumb, is that the front of the face, all the way to the lower belly will be white.  Most Herefords also have a white stripe going along their withers (the spine above the front shoulders).  Occasionally the ears will also be white.  However, Herefords don’t have white spots, so keep an eye out for that.



Herefords aren’t the largest of cow breeds, but they aren’t the smallest either.  Their bodies are quite block, but not as defined as other breeds.  The bulls are larger and more muscular than the cows, but they’re still smaller than some other breeds (with the exception of a few ranches that focus on breeding large Herefords).  Herefords have short hair.  Sometimes it’s straight, sometimes it’s curly but it’s usually short.  The colder the ranch they come from though, the longer the hair on the Hereford will be.  Cows generally end up weighing around 1200lb, and bulls can go up to 2000lb.  Herefords tend to put on fat a lot easier than other breeds of european cattle (such as the Limousine and Simmental cattle).



The face of a Hereford usually gives it away if there’s any doubt as to the breed.  The white face is the first indication that you might be dealing with a Hereford.  Hereford bulls almost always have curly hair on their foreheads, as well as both the bulls and cows have rather broad foreheads.  Their upper lips also always overlap the bottom lips, which means that Herefords almost always have a broad mouth.  In terms of horns, Herefords are usually polled (born without horns), or if they are born with horns, they are dehorned at a young age.  If not dehorned, the horns are usually trained to grow downwards, but if left to grow naturally, the horns grow upwards and forwards.




Herefords are a very hardy breed, with thick skin and coats which adapt to their environmental elements.  Because of this, they can be found everywhere from hot and sunny South Africa, to hot and dry Australia, to the cold and snowy ranches of Canada.  Something that adds to the hardiness of a Hereford is that they can live off of grass and hay, without *needing* extra supplements.  Because of this, they can be found pretty much anywhere in the world.  However, it can be noted that originally, Herefords came from Great Britain, with its wet and somewhat colder climate.


Other Information

Herefords are known to be quite docile and calm in temperament.  Because of this, they’re popular on farms.  However they are poor milk producers, so they lose in the “family farm cow” category to cows such as Jersey cows (also calm and docile in temperament).  Generally these cows are bred for culling, as living out on farms eating grass rather than in stalls tends to give the meat a lot more flavour than grain-fed beef.