Brahman Cows: Guide, Info & Facts

Brahman cows are extremely good at tolerating insects and heat, with its hump able to store gallons of water. They have a special place in the history of American and Australian breeds of cattle, and have evolved over the last 200 years to cope with harsh climates.

Read on to discover if this breed will make the perfect match for your farm or homestead.

Where Do Brahman Cows Come From?

Brahman cows descend from Zebu cattle, known as Bos indicus or the famous sacred cattle of India.

Brahman cattle is the name used for Zebu cattle in the US, with the more specific name, American Brahman, used to refer to the pure breed of Bos indicus developed in the country using Indian cattle.

Brahman cows were first imported to the US in the mid-1800s from Brazil, India, and the United Kingdom. From 1885, crossing activities started with four strains or breeds of Zebu cattle called the Nelore, the Gir, the Guzerat, and the Krishna Valley.

Of the four strains, the Krishna Valley was the least used, but it still played a significant role in the development of American Brahmas.

From India, where they were used for draft, riding, milk production, and sacred purposes, the Brahmans found new uses in the US by becoming a celebrated breeding and beef breed.

American Brahman cattle have been crossbred with major taurine breeds (Bos taurus) or European cattle to produce hybrids such as:

  • Brangus – Brahman x Angus
  • Sabre – Brahman x Sussex
  • Bravon – Brahman x Devon
  • South Bravon – Brahman x South Devon
  • Bra-Swiss – Brahman x Brown Swiss
  • CharBray – Brahman x Charolais
  • Beefmaster – Brahman x Hereford x Shorthorn
  • Braford – Brahman x Hereford
  • Santa Gertrudis – Brahman x Shorthorn (developed in Texas)
  • SimBrah – Brahman x Simmental
  • BrahMousin – Brahman x Limousin
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The American Brahman Breeders Association, established in 1924, was responsible for maintaining the Brahman herdbook and supervising the registration of the cattle. The association adopted Brahman as the official name of the breed in the country.

Today, American Brahman cattle have spread to Colombia, Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

Brahman Cows Breed Characteristics

The following characteristics are notable in Brahman cows:

Official Breed NameBrahman
Scientific NameBos indicus cattle
OriginIndia
SizeLarge hump resting directly over the shoulder
AppearanceVarying colors (Red Brahman—light grey to red and Grey Brahman—light to medium grey).
Large, pendulous ears
Lots of loose skin
Short glossy hair
Horns in both bulls and cows (some Brahmans are naturally polled)
Calf Weight60-65 pounds at birth, sometimes 50-100
Mature Cow Weight1,000 to 1,400 pounds
Mature Cow Height5 to 5.5 feet at the shoulder
Mature Bull Weight1,600 to 2,200 pounds
Mature Bull Height5.5 to 6 feet at the shoulder
Ready To Breed18 to 24 months, making these later maturing cows
Gestation Period9 months
First Calvings27 to 33 months
Time to Slaughter2 years
Carcass Weight741 pounds (on average)
Expected Lifespan12-16 years on average, 15-20 as dairy, and fewer as beef cattle
Productive Lifespan5+ years
Known ForShyness, curiosity, and intelligence
Good mothering instincts
Docility when handled calmly
WeaknessesPoor carcass weight
ClimateAdaptability to different climates, though they have poor cold tolerance.
herd of braham cattle

What Is So Special About Brahman Cows?

The Brahman breed of cattle is famous mainly because of three aspects:

  • High tolerance to heat
  • Long reproductive life
  • Hybrid vigor or heterosis in crossbreeding (the increase in production realized from crossing two genetically unrelated breeds).
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The high tolerance to heat developed over thousands of years as the cattle grew in the tropics and had to develop adaptive mechanisms for heat dissipation.

Firstly, the loose skin helps with heat dissipation as it provides more surface area for cooling or heat loss from the body to the environment.

Secondly, the coloring of the skin helps reflect intense sun rays, which would otherwise cause heat buildup.

Thirdly, the glossy coat of short and thick hair helps reflect most of the sun’s rays, which allows the cows to graze under the hot sun comfortably.

During warm weather, Brahman bulls and cows produce lower amounts of body heat than European cattle.

The high sweating ability of Brahmans through the many sweat glands distributed throughout the skin also helps with heat tolerance.

The prolonged productive life of Brahman cattle endears them to many cattlemen. Although the calves are born small, they grow rapidly to attain good weaning weights like other breeds.

However, Brahmans have relatively slow growth in their heifer days and reach first breeding age at 18-24 months, much later than heifers of other breeds.

The upside to the late maturing phenomenon is that Brahma cows usually calf down beyond 15 years of age, way beyond the time for other cow breeds.

Why Should I Raise Brahman Cows On My Farm?

There are several reasons you would want to raise Brahman cattle on your farm:

  • Brahman cows are good for milk and beef production.
  • Brahmans are highly adaptive to different feeds and climates, although they don’t do so well in places with too low temperatures.
  • The hardiness of Brahmans and their crossbreeds favors farmers or ranchers in desert climates in regions like Texas, where cattle with high survivability come in handy.
  • The famed hybrid vigor means you can make money if you raise pure-bred Brahman bulls to produce healthy semen for artificial insemination.
  • Because of the longer reproductive lifespan, your Brahman cow will have more calves on your farm to keep the stock going. You could also make money from calf sales.
  • Brahman cattle are highly tolerant to diseases, meaning that your vet bills will be lower than those of other breeds like Holsteins that are susceptible to diseases and viruses.
  • The thick skin of Brahman cows makes them hardy and highly resistant to attacks by insects and parasites. Their sebaceous glands produce a stinky secretion that keeps insects at bay.

Alex

Alex grew up in a rural area with chickens, cows, goats, and rabbits. He has always enjoyed waking up at 6 am to tend to his flock and vegetable garden. He bought his first cow at 25 and named her "104". In 2021, he set up an aquarium and now spends his lazy time watching his fish. He is happiest watching small animals and plants grow big, not to mention writing to share his farm-life experiences.

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