Breed of the Month Archive

Kerry Cattle

Herd-Book creation :1887
Nb. Breeding females (2006): about 1200
Trend :upward
Location : Ireland; mainly in the southwest
Local name : Kerry Cattle
English name : Kerry Cattle


It is thought that the Kerry is derived from the little black cow, the Celtic shorthorn, brought by Neolithic man in his migrations northwards from the Mediterranean basin. They were first recognized as a breed in 1839 and the herd book was established in 1887. The number of animals registered per year has fluctuated between 50 and 280 throughout the 20th century. Currently about 300 animals are registered per year. The herd book was maintained by the Royal Dublin Society until 2001 at which point registrations were taken over by the Kerry Cattle Society. Like many rare breeds, one of the reasons for the decline in numbers has been the displacement of Kerry cattle in favour of other breeds, such as Friesian and Holstein in Ireland.

Breed Description

The Kerry cow is black, sometimes with a little white on the udder. She is of dairy type, well ribbed with fine bone. She has character, is alert and light on her feet. Cows weigh 350 to 450 kgs depending on the type of land on which they are kept. The cows enjoy a long useful life, still strong and calving regularly at 14 and 15 years of age. They are extremely hardy and will out winter quite happily even under low feeding. They are very adaptable and can be kept in a wide range of conditions. Kerry cows have recorded 305day average milk yields of between 4000-5000 kg at 4% fat.

Previous/Future Conservation

In order to maintain or increase the number of Kerry cattle in Ireland a number of schemes are available to help breeders that keep these animals. A premium of €76 is payable per calf registered in the herd books subject to certain restrictions. In addition under the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme participants are eligible for a payment of €216 per animal per annum. In addition semen has been collected from a number of bulls over the last number of years.


Herdbook: Kerry Cattle Society, Cahernane, Killarney, Co. Kerry.