Nelore Cattle

Last updated: October 31, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Nelore cattle make up about 65% of the total world beef-producing population!

Nelore Cattle Scientific Classification


Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Nelore Cattle Conservation Status

Nelore Cattle Locations

Nelore Cattle Facts

Name Of Young
Group Behavior
  • Herd
Fun Fact
Nelore cattle make up about 65% of the total world beef-producing population!
Estimated Population Size
Five million
Most Distinctive Feature
Hump on neck
Distinctive Feature
Long legs
Other Name(s)
Nellore, Ongole cattle
Gestation Period
291.4 days

Nelore Cattle Physical Characteristics

  • White
Skin Type
15-20 years
990-1100 pounds
Age of Sexual Maturity
two years

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Nelore cattle make up about 65% of the total world beef-producing population!

Nelore Cattle Summary

This cattle breed descended from the Ongole cattle breed which were originally from India. Their main use is meat and milk production, as well as riding animals and draught. Nelore is a widespread breed, accounting for more than half of the world’s total bovine beef-producing population. This breed is not just sought after for their tasty beef, but also for their hardiness, resistance to extreme heat, insects, and bloat, and prolific reproductive life as well.

Nelore Cattle Facts

  • Nelore cattle are a hardy breed. Not only are Nelore calves able to stand up alone soon after birth, but they also are able to survive in conditions of drought and poor food quality.
  • These cattle are resistant to insects, and can withstand harsh climate conditions of extreme heat. This is due to the cattle having many more sweat glands which are also twice as big as other breeds, as well as having black, loose skin with white hair that reflects the sun’s rays.
  • Nelore cattle produce optimal beef without excessive marbling, just enough fat, and with a great taste! They are able to produce excellent meat even in conditions of poor food quality.
  • Nelore cows have long and deep bodies, wide pelvic openings, and sizeable birth canals which contribute to an easier calving process. In addition to this, Nelore cows possess favorable mothering skills and they have lengthy reproductive lives.
  • The nature of the Nguni cattle hide and pigmentation protects them from skin and eye cancer.
  • They have a high resistance to bloat, which is as a result of their feeding behavior. This cattle breed has a very slow metabolic rate which allows it to feed less frequently.

Nelore Cattle Scientific Name

This breed is named by Brazilians after the Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh state in India. Their name was originally spelled Nellore, but then transformed into Nelore. They are descendants of the Ongole cattle originally brought to India over 2,000 years ago, and then the first pair was brought to Brazil in 1868. In the 1960s, 100 cattle were brought over from India to Brazil and most of the Nelore in Brazil today are descendants of those 100 animals.

This breed belongs to the order Artiodactyla, which are hoofed animals that bear equal weight on two of their five toes, and family Bovidae, which are cloven-hoofed, ruminant animals. Bovidae comprises of 52 genuses and 146 extant species, including the goat, antelope, bison, wildebeest, and sheep.

Other animals that belong to the family Artiodactyla include pigs, hippos, camels, buffalo, and giraffes.

Nelore Cattle Appearance

Nelore Cattle
Nelore cattle are a hardy breed. Not only are Nelore calves able to stand up alone soon after birth, but they also are able to survive in conditions of drought and poor food quality.

©Alf Ribiero/

Nelore cattle are medium-size animals with relatively long legs that enable them to tread bodies of water while grazing. This cattle breed has black skin and white hair. Their ears are the shortest of most Bos indicus breeds.

This cattle breed has adapted well to the different Brazilian climates and can withstand conditions of extreme heat and cold. Nelore cattle have very large sweat glands 25-35% bigger than European breeds and this helps them regulate their body heat, keeping it low. This is because of their black skin and white hair that redirects the sun’s rays. Another adaptive trait of Nelore cattle is their resistance to insects such as horn flies, fleas, and gnats by shaking them off using a layer of muscle under their skin.

The cattle have a distinctive hump behind their neck region and they typically have round horns pointed upwards. Some animals of this breed are naturally polled, meaning they do not have horns. Polled cattle are more desired because the absence of horns reduces the risk of injuries during fights and makes for easier transportation of the cattle. As is typical of animals belonging to the Bovidae family, Nelore cattle are ruminant animals and possess a four-chamber stomach.

Another notable characteristic of Nelore cattle is their immense physical strength. This allows them to be great as riding and draught animals.

Nelore bulls weigh up to 1,100 pounds, whereas the cows weigh in at around 990 pounds. The Nelore cows have long and deep bodies, wide pelvic regions, and large birth canals which typically help them avoid complications such as dystocia during the birthing process. They have small to medium-sized udders with small, short teats.

These cattle are ruminant animals, and as such, their stomachs are in four chambers. A unique trait of this breed is that it has a slow metabolic rate, enabling it to feed less often and thereby producing less heat. This feeding trait also gives it resistance to bloating.

Despite their hardy nature, Nelore cattle are a well-temper breed.

Nelore Cattle Habitat and Population

The Nelore cattle breed are native to India and Brazil. Brought over to Brazil from India in the 1960s, Nelore cattle, formerly known as Ongole cattle, has its largest population in Brazil, with over 80% of beef-producing cattle being either purebred or hybrid Nelore cattle.

From Brazil, the Nelore cattle breed traveled to Paraguay, Argentina, the United States, Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, and other countries. The Nelore cattle breed makes up 65% of the world’s total bovine population.

Currently, the total registered purebred Nelore cattle population stands at more than five million animals.

This cattle breed is not currently on the IUCN Red List of endangered species.

Nelore Cattle Diet

Nelore cattle feed mostly on grasses. They also eat grains and soy. Nelore cattle are very economical animals, producing quality beef from low-quality forage. This breed can go weeks without water. Their feeding habit of eating less often also makes them resistant to bloating.

Nguni cattle are ruminant animals, which means that they possess a four-chambered stomach. Digestion begins in the mouth, and when the food moves into the first stomach, or rumen, it is turned into cud and regurgitated to be chewed again. This process is “chewing the cud.”

Nelore Cattle Reproduction, Lifespan

Nelore cattle have an ideal reproductive life as a result of some of their favorable physical characteristics. The cows have udders with short teats while the bulls have short sheaths. They have long, deep bodies, wide pelvic openings, and large birth canals. These characteristics enable them to give birth to calves easily as well as reduce the risk of dystocia, or difficult birth.

Nelore cows reach sexual maturity at about two years of age. Like other breeds of cattle, they usually give birth to one calf at a time. The gestation period for Nelore heifers is around 291 days. They also typically spawn about two to four calves in their lifetime. The cows are very diligent mothers and lick their newborn calves until clean, suckle them, and protect them from predators. Their advanced mothering skills also increases the calf’s survival rate. The calves are typically weaned at an optimum weight.

Nelore cattle are great-tasting, high-quality meat, and also as draught animals. Although they are milk cattle, they do not produce a large quantity of it. They produce beef that is lean and low-calorific with just enough fat to complement the meat. However, some breeds produce beef with excess marbling.

Nelore cattle have a lengthy lifespan ranging from 15-20 years. If meant for slaughter, then 4-6 years is enough.

Nelore Cattle Predators and Threats

When it comes to the elements, this breed can withstand even the toughest situations. Nelore cattle can thrive even in critical temperatures and conditions of drought.

Although Nelore cattle can stay without drinking water for weeks, chronic thirst still poses a serious problem for this breed. A clean source of drinking water is one of the scarcest resources especially under extreme heat and when the water content of the forage is low.

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Nelore Cattle FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where are Nelore cattle originally from?

Nelore cattle are originally from India. They were brought to Brazil from India in the 1960s and from there, the breed spread to other parts of the Western hemisphere.

Which country has the largest Nelore cattle population?

Brazil has the highest Nelore cattle population with a purebred nu

Why do Nelore cattle have long legs?

The long legs of Nelore cattle enable them to tread on shallow bodies of water such as lakes while they graze.

Can Nelore cattle survive the cold?

Nelore cattle can withstand cold and hot temperatures, however they prefer tropical regions to cold ones.

What are Nelore cattle used for?

Nelore cattle are reared for their meat, milk, and used as draught animals because of their incredible physical strength and hardiness.

Is Nelore beef any good?

Nelore beef is award-winning, and considered to be very tasty and high quality. The meat is lean and tender, and contains just enough fat.

Are Nelore cattle prone to diseases?

Nelore cattle are resistant to insects and blood-sucking parasites which makes them less prone to parasitic diseases.

How long can Nelore cattle go without water?

Nelore cattle can go long periods of time without drinking water, even up to weeks.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

  1. Gestation Periods for a Herd of Cattle in Honduras / C.E. Haines, Available here:,days%20for%20their%20gestation%20periods
  2. Pet Keen, Available here:,number%20of%20exports%20each%20year
  3. The Cattle Site, Available here:
  4. Oklahoma State, Department of Animal Science, Available here:
  5. Roy’s Farm / Nelore Cattle Characteristics, Uses & Origin Info, Available here:
  6. Frontiers / Animal Welfare in Extensive Production Systems Is Still an Area of Concern / Déborah Temple and Xavier Manteca, Available here:
  7. Wikipedia, Available here:

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