Brahman History

A Brief History of Brahman in the United States

By Rachel Cutrer

The American Brahman breed has a rich and glorious history in the United States, and here at BRC we are always proud of our heritage in the breed yet look for progressive and modern practices to keep the breed moving forward. 

This blog is a brief summary of the history of Brahman cattle in the United States. We highly recommend the book “American Brahman” which was written by Joe Ackerman, if you’d like to learn more about this great breed. 

Initially, some people think that the American Brahman was created in India. That’s a misconception, since it was actually developed in the United States – hence the name “American” Brahman. It was however derived from four Indian breeds of cattle – Gyr, Guzerat, Nellore and Krishna Valley. At the most basic level, the deep roots of the American Brahman breed stem back to Indian cattle in the Old World. 

Brahman cattle are classified as Bos Indicus (where Angus or Hereford are Bos Taurus). This initial classification was derived from the geographic areas in which the breeds roots were found, thus why Brahman are different than Hereford or Angus. 

But here in the USA, the development of the American Brahman cattle were created along the southern gulf coast – more specifically in the geographic area between the Mississippi River and Rio Grande Rivers according to Joe Ackerman. 

Which makes a lot of sense – because this is “Brahman Country.” Brahman cattle are made to thrive in environmental regions where the weather is hot, humid, and conditions are full of insects. That’s how they adapted to be the breed they are today. They can survive in the brush country of Texas, the marsh of Louisiana, the Amazon rainforest, and all types of rough land. 

Four Breeds Make American Brahman

According to Acekrman, from 1835 to 1906, Guzerat cattle were the most popular Indian breed being imported into the USA and South America. You can recognize this breed by large horns, broad chest, and a powerful appearance. Initially it was a draft animal. In today’s most modern Brahman, we feel that Miss V8 21/8 has a lot of traits that resemble the Guzerat breed. 

Gyr cattle were also used to create the American Brahman breed. This breed is most notified by a very broad forehead and longer ears with a curve at the end of the tip. This breed is seem more heavily influencing the red Brahman, due to pioneer Gir bulls like Arauto, who many consider to be the forefather of the American Red Brahman breed. 

Nellore cattle were also used in the development of American Brahman, and were especially important from the Borden-O’Connor importation from Brazil.  

The Krishna Valley breed also played a big role in developing the American Brahman. 

Three Bulls That Shaped the Breed – Even Today

Dr. Jim Sanders, international expert on Brahman cattle breeding and genetics, estimated that more than 80% of the Zebu cattle that were imported into the United States during the breeds early development came either directly or indirectly from Brazil. (James O. Sanders, “History and Development of Zebu Cattle in the United States,” Journal of Animal Science, Vol. 50, No. 6, 1980.)]

In 1924, there was a significant importation of Brahman bulls from Mexico that greatly shaped the breed as we know it today. This shipment included:

  • Aristocrata (who was the sire of Manso)
  • Imperator (the sire of King of Kaplan and grandsire of Emperor 200)
  • Quinca (the sire of Quinca the Great and Maroto – who was the sire of Tippu the Great)

Knowing these three key bulls helps explain a lot of today’s modern Brahman breeding. 

Aristocrata – Sire of Manso

Obviously, Aristocrata led to Manso, who is the most famous Brahman bull in the breed’s history. This is the basis of the J.D. Hudgins herd, and through their widespread influence, a bull that is likely represented in every single animal in the USA’s pedigree to some degree of influence. Our BRC herd has a tremendous amount of Manso influence. 

Imperator is another highly influential bull, which had a huge influence in the herds of Louisiana and Florida. King of Kaplain was a very famous bull for the Marceaux family of Louisiana, who were recently recognized as one of the longest running members of ABBA. And Emperor 200 would become a foundation sire for the great Henry Partin herd, originally of Florida but now residing in Texas. 

The Quinca the Great, Maroto and Tippu the Great lines were well established by William States Jacob, a pioneer US Brahman breeder and major proponent of keeping the cattle” pure of their descent from India. This is the sire line that was later perpetuated by Howard Parker of V8 Ranch, and later Sloan Williams of V8 Ranch. Since my grandfather is Sloan Williams and he allowed me to be part of his ranch for 40 years, many of the BRC herd stems back to the Quinca line. 

Understanding these three main bulls – and their effects when bred in different herds – helps give new breeders a lot of understanding about how the modern Brahman got to where it is today. 

The Word Brahman

The American Brahman Breeders Association (ABBA) credits J.W. Sartwelle as “the father of Brahman” and the man who officially gave Brahman it’s name. 

In the mid 1800s, Ackerman reports in his book that people had started using some variation of this word to describe the cattle that were taking the gulf coast by storm. These variations included Brahman, Brimmer, Brahma, Bramah and others. 

There is a deed record from 1869 in Texas that reflects a transfer of ownership in “a Brahma bull” to one of Sam Houston’s relatives (the famous Texas general). 

The spelling bramah appears in a letter received by A.R. Hudgins of Chappel Hill, Texas dated September 25, 1875. And in 1878, a Tampa, Florida newspaper account makes reference to Brahmin cattle that were exhibited at a state fair in Gainesville, Florida that same year. One of the most common denominations used by early cattlemen was Bremmer. Shanghai Pierce, legendary Texan, referred to the cattle as “Bremmers”. 

In 1924, the American Brahman Breeders Association was formed, and at this time, needed to officially name the breed. Sartwelle, being an expert in history, language, and cattle, took the word Brahmin and added the English suffix to officially create the word “Brahman.” 

The Standard of Excellence

With a new breed being formed, obviously there were some struggles. Some people felt only cattle of pure Indian descent should qualify for registry. Others believed in crossbreeding or breeding up to get a ⅞ or 31/32 Brahman. This eventually led the ABBA to create “The Standard of Excellence” which is a 100 point system to identify the standards of the breed. It is still used today. 

J.B. “Pop” Forgason – my 2x Great Grandfather – pictured with one of the Brazilian bulls imported by J.D. Hudgins in 1924. His wife, Ethel Hudgins Forgason, is one of the three great women who have inspired me in the cattle business (Rachel Hudgins, Ethel Forgason, and Mollie Williams).

Why Brahman History Matters to Me

My ancestors helped develop the American Brahman in the USA, and have spent the last 150 years of their life dedicated to continuing to improve the Brahman breed. My own bloodline is filled with passionate men and women who have devoted their lives to this great breed. 

Loving Brahman cattle is in my blood – it’s what I do. I feel a deep personal calling that there is no greater breed of cattle for the gulf coast – “Brahman Country – than Brahman cattle and consider it my personal mission to inform every cattleman in North America of the benefits of using this breed of cattle. Sure, not every location is made for Brahman cattle. But, Brahman cattle are a mainstay of the US gulf coast, and a halfblood or quarter-blood Brahman are excellent for ranching across the southern plains. 

If you have an interest in Brahman history, I’d like to invite you to personally connect with me on Facebook or to request to join our Brahman Education group. The Brahman family is a warm and welcoming group of people who love sharing the breed’s heritage. 

If you are looking to add Brahman cattle to your herd, we’d love to be your Brahman source. Our passion for Brahman is contagious! Get started by filling out our “Buy a Brahman” form and we’ll do our best to help find the perfect animal for your herd.

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