Red Polls originate from East Anglia, England and were developed from two different local breeds selected for specific traits. The Suffolk Dun from the county of Suffolk, a polled (naturally lacking horns) dairy breed, noted for their milk quality with high butterfat was bred with the Norfolk Red, a beef breed from the county of Norfolk, known for their finishing ability and muscling. Together, these two breeds produced a solid red, strongly polled, dual purpose breed that could be used in many situations. The origins of the native cattle have been lost and both breeds are now extinct, but historians suggest that red cattle were brought to Great Britain by both the Romans and the Vikings.
In the early 1800’s, John Reeve, a tenant on the Earl of Leicester’s Holkham Estate in Norfolk, began mating his Norfolk cows to Suffolk bulls. Reeve and other breeders of the era selected cattle for both beef and milk production. Reeve’s improved cattle became known as
“The Red Polled Cattle Descended from the Norfolk and Suffolk Red Polled.” The small red cattle with the big name gained popularity as improved cattle and were recognized as a separate breed in 1846. The name was later shortened to Red Poll.
Red Polls first appeared in Canada in the 1880s when they were imported by the New Brunswick government. In 1903 H. C. Clendening, of Harding, Manitoba, introduced Red Polls to the west and the Canadian Red Poll Cattle Association was incorporated in 1906.
Red Poll Cattle are the world’s only truly dual-purpose breed. Breeders in England have two markets for their calves: dairy farms as well as beef operations. As a result, a tag line commonly used for the breed is “the beef breed with milk!” They provide the best balance of docile temperament, calving ease, longevity, hardiness, feed conversion, high quality and quantity of milk, mothering ability, fertility, high calf and yearling growth rates, and exceptional carcass qualities.
The Red Poll is classified as “Endangered” by Rare Breeds Canada with only 76 animals registered in 2008. Our herd at Hawthorne Ridge Heritage farm is registered purebred stock and we are committed to the long term sustainability of this breed that has so much to offer. As is the case with most of the rare livestock breeds, to save them you have to eat them!