Brahman is one of the most signifcant beef breeds
on a worldwide level. Te breed is the #1 beef breed for
efciency, hybrid vigor, and environmental adaptability.
Te breeds inﬂuence is seen throughout herds in North
America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australia, and is
extremely useful in commercial crossbreeding. Terefore, a
knowledge of modern Brahman breed types is useful for all
Brahman - The Brahman breed (see Figure 1) originated in the United States from humped cattle that
were imported from India and Brazil. Brahman cattle are a horned breed that vary in color, but are
predominantly gray and red. Brahman cattle are humped, have large drooping ears, and loose skin in
the throat and dewlap. These cattle have a very high tolerance to heat and have a natural resistance to
many parasites. They are considered a maternal breed.
Origin of the Breed
The first and formal adoption of the word Brahman originated with the inception of the American Brahman Breeders Association (ABBA) in 1924. Cattlemen attending their organizational meeting wrestled with the question of what to name this American Bos Indicus breed that Mr JW Startwelle called “… an entirely new breed of beef cattle”. Mr Startwelle, the first Secretary of ABBA and early driving force of their association, was indeed historically instrumental, when he suggested the word Brahman.
History in Southern Africa
The introduction of the Brahman to the South African beef cattle scene originated back in 1954 when Mr Jurgen Crantz, of Windhoek, in South West Africa as they knew it in those days, initially imported eight males and ten females from Texas, USA, to be landed at Cape Town harbour.
Five of these bulls originated from Mr JD Hudgins, Texas, while one came from Mr Albert B Fay, Texas, another one from Mr VW Frost, Texas, and one from Lazy 3 Ranch, Texas. All ten females were from famous JD Hudgins Ranch. We today salute the inspirations and motivations of Mr Jurgen Crantz of Namibia as the pioneer who unknowingly laid the foundation of what would have become a major breed in the production of red meat in Southern Africa.
Mr W Woker of Windhoek, South West Africa, Nuanetzi Ranch Ltd., the Normar stud of Mr AI Marais and Mr C Scheepers, all from South Africa, made other early imports in 1954. Breeders who were particularly prominent by importing many animals between 1954 and 1971 were, among others, JFW Herbst and son, JB Orpen of the Bar Circle Stud, Sisal Brahmans of Mr Eric Bilse, Ban Cattle Co. of Mr Louis Bosman, D Terblanche, RELH Hunt, the Code Brahman stud of Mr AJ Coetzer and Mr BJ Maritz.
The remarkable growth and demand for the breed
The contribution Brahmans have made towards the South African stud and commercial industry can be described as remarkable, especially during the first three decades starting in 1960. The distinctive appearance of the Brahman during the subsequent decade sets them apart from any other traditional beef breed in South Africa. The hump on top of its shoulders, large pendulous ears, abundant folds of skin and distinctive colour have contributed towards the phenomenal growth being recorded in those days.
The membership of 41 in 1960 increased by 465.85 % within the first ten years, births during the same period by 1 296.64 %, registrations 581.63 % and transfers by 1 542,64 %. This brought the Brahman into the limelight after only 10 years and remarks by the press such as the “Brahman is like a Chameleon because he adapts everywhere” were made in those days. The use of the Brahman as a maternal line has become significant due to the dramatic changes in the composition of our national beef population in South Africa
Official figures show that where the Afrikaner represented almost 45 % of the market share in 1965, the situation changed dramatically in 1985 to retain only 7.0 % of the registrations at the SA Stud Book and Livestock Improvement Association. Brahman registrations on the other hand increased from 4.4 % to almost 57.0 % during the same period. Currently there are 572 members with a total number of +60 000 enrolled animals.
Breeding and uses
The American Brahman was the first bred in the early 1900s as a cross of four different Indian cattle breeds : Gujarat, Ongole, Gir, Krishna Valley. The original American Brahman cattle originated from a nucleus of approximately 266 bulls and 22 females of several Bos indicus (cattle of India) varieties imported into the United States between 1854 and 1926.
The Brahman is mainly used for the meat industry. It has been crossbred extensively with Bos taurus taurus (European) beef breeds of cattle. It has been used to develop numerous other U.S. beef breeds including Brangus, Beefmaster, Simbrah and Santa Gertrudis.
Brahman cattle are known for their extreme tolerance to heat and are widespread in tropical regions. They are resistant to insects due to their thick skin. Brahman cattle live longer than many other breeds, often producing calves at ages 15 and older
In Oman and Fujairah, Brahman bulls are used in the traditional sport of bull-butting. It involves two of these bulls engaging in a ferocious round of headbutts. The first one to collapse or concede its ground is deemed the loser. Brahman bulls being readied for this sport are kept on a special diet of milk and honey for gaining superior strength.