How Much Does a Cow Weigh? Sort by Type and Gender

Angus bulls can weigh up to 2,300 pounds.
© Bernd.K / CC BY-SA 3.0

Written by Mike Edmisten

Updated: August 8, 2023

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How much does a cow weigh? With all the different breeds, it’s more complicated than you might think.

Humans domesticated cattle around 10,500 years ago. Farmers raise these ungulates worldwide for meat, milk, and labor. Today, there are over one billion head of cattle worldwide.

Cattle Terminology

  • Cow: Adult female that has produced a calf
  • Bull: Male animal
  • Steer: Male animal that has been castrated and cannot breed
  • Heifer: Young female that has not produced a calf
  • Veal: Calves that are raised to 475-500 pounds

What Is a Breed?

People categorize cattle into different breeds, but no clear, universal definition of a breed exists. In his 1947 book, “Modern Breeds of Livestock,” Dr. Hilton Briggs described a breed as “a group of animals with certain distinguishable characteristics due to breeding and selection.”

In 1999, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations adopted this definition of a livestock breed: “Either 1) a subspecific group of domestic livestock with definable and identifiable external characteristics that enable it to be separated by visual appraisal from other similarly defined groups within the same species or 2) a group for which geographical and/or cultural separation from phenotypically similar groups has lead to acceptance of its separate identity.” 

The loose definitions and characterizations of breeds mean it is virtually impossible to determine how many cattle breeds actually exist today. Some claim the number is under 100. Others contend there are several hundred to a few thousand. Some posit that it is close to 10,000. With no standardization of what constitutes a breed, it is impossible to say with certainty.

Close up portrait of a magnificent male Limousin cattle standing in a pasture looking straight into the camera

Limousin bulls can weigh up to 2,500 pounds.

©perfect-picture-hunter/Shutterstock.com

U.S. Breeds

There are 70-80 cattle breed registries in the United States, but there are multiple registries for essentially the same cattle in some cases. So, again, it is difficult to nail down the number of U.S. breeds with certainty.

However, out of the 70+ breeds in the U.S., less than two dozen breeds influence the nation’s cattle industry. That is not to diminish the importance of the other breeds to a family, business, or locality. Still, relatively few breeds dominate the landscape of the U.S. cattle industry. 

Jersey cattle

Jersey cows can weigh up to 1,200 pounds.

©Cameron Watson/Shutterstock.com


Here’s a list of key players and rising stars in U.S. cattle breeds. We’ve categorized each cattle breed as beef, dairy, or dual-purpose. Some breeds cater to niche markets. For instance, while people increasingly favor milk from Brahman cows, and some slaughter Jersey cattle for beef, these practices aren’t common enough to label these breeds as dual-purpose.

We’ve also mentioned each breed’s place of origin and the approximate weights of bulls and cows. Remember that these weights can vary due to numerous factors, so consider them typical approximations for the breed.

BreedBeef/DairyOriginBull Weight (pounds)Cow Weight (pounds)
AngusBeefScotland1850-23001150-1250
AyrshireDairyScotland1,400-1,975990-1,300
Belted GallowayBeefScotland1,650-2,2001,000-1,300
BrahmanBeefIndia1,600-2,2001,000-1,400
Brown SwissDairyIndia1,800-2,0001,100-1,500
CharolaisBeefFrance2,000-2,5001,250-1,600
DexterDualIreland1,000-1,200800-1,000
GelbviehDualGermany2,2001,650
GuernseyDairyChannel Islands1,300-1,550990-1,100
HerefordBeefEngland1,8001,200
HolsteinDualNetherlands2,000-2,5001,500
JerseyDairyChannel Islands1,200-1,800800-1,200
LimousinBeefFrance2,200-2,5001,400-1,600
Milking ShorthornDairyGreat Britain1,800-2,2001,100-1,400
PiedmonteseBeefItaly1,550-1,8751,100-1,200
Red AngusBeefScotland1,800-2,0001,200-1,400
Scottish HighlandBeefScotland1,500-2,000900-1,300
ShorthornBeefEngland2,200-2,4001,400-1,600
SimmentalDualSwitzerland2,800-2,9001,550-2,000
Texas LonghornBeefUnited States1,200-1,500900-1,200
WatusiBeefEast Africa1,000-1,600900-1,200

Most Common U.S. Breeds

Beef

Angus (also known as Black Angus or Aberdeen Angus)  is the most widespread beef breed in the United States. The breed is quite popular for its tender and flavorful meat due to its natural marbling. Angus cattle also require little maintenance during the calving season since the cows have excellent maternal qualities. The breed utilizes feed effectively and can tolerate cold weather conditions. This all combines to make Angus one of the most profitable beef breeds for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

Black Angus Bull standing in the pasture

Black Angus Bull standing in the pasture

©iStock.com/PatrickZiegler

Dairy

The most common dairy breed in the United States is the Holstein. This black-and-white breed has become the image-bearer for the nation’s dairy industry. Holsteins have the highest milk production of any U.S. cattle, making them the most profitable dairy breed. One Holstein cow can produce up to nine gallons of milk per day. That’s why an estimated 90% of all dairy cattle in the United States are Holsteins.

cow and calf

90% of American dairy cows are Holsteins.

©iStock.com/Diane Kuhl

Cattle By State

Cattle are found in every U.S. state. Texas has the most cattle of any state, accounting for roughly 13% of the nation’s total cattle inventory. Texas is so tied to the cattle industry that the Texas Longhorn is the official large mammal of the state.

Nebraska, Kansas, California, and Oklahoma round out the top five cattle-producing states in the United States.

The total U.S. cattle inventory dropped three percent in 2022, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Texas longhorn cattle grazing behind a fence on a yellow flower pasture in the spring. Blue sky background.

The Texas Longhorn is a truly American breed.

©Leena Robinson/Shutterstock.com

Largest and Smallest Cattle Breeds Worldwide

As you can see in the table above, there can be a wide range of weights between different breeds. The world’s largest and smallest breeds take that diversion to the extreme.

The largest cattle breed in the world is the Chianina. Calves weigh 100-110 pounds at birth. Talk about a big baby! Mature bulls can weigh up to 3,500 pounds. People originally bred it for its massive size, primarily for draft work. Now, it’s primarily a beef breed. This ancient Italian breed is also among the world’s oldest. In ancient Rome, artists used Chianinas as models for sculptures, and they featured prominently in Roman ceremonies and festivities.

Chianina (Italian pronunciation) Cattle breed on pasture

The bulky Chianina is the largest cattle breed in the world.

©R. Maximiliane/Shutterstock.com

The smallest cattle breed is the Vechur. This dwarf breed averages around 280 pounds at maturity. This Indian breed has come close to extinction, with only a few hundred individuals left in the world.

steer vs bull

The Vechur is the world’s smallest cattle breed.

©Asok Mathew/Shutterstock.com

Most Expensive Beef Breed

In the world of elite beef, most people know of the Wagyu breed. This Japanese breed was initially bred mainly as a draft animal. Its intermuscular fat cells provided increased energy for these animals to perform all manner of agricultural work.

Wagyu Cow

The Japanese Black is the most common Wagyu cow raised in Japan.

©Filmbildfabrik/Shutterstock.com

Later, it was those fat cells in the muscles, what most of us know as marbling, that made Wagyu some of the most sought-after beef in the world. Variations of Wagyu, including the famed Kobe beef, can sell for hundreds of dollars per pound. However, no Wagyu beef cut qualifies as the world’s most expensive beef. That honor goes to one specific steak that is only available from one restaurant in France.

Wagyu Beef

Wagyu beef is world-famous for its marbling.

©Artit Wongpradu/Shutterstock.com

The vintage Côte de Boeuf (beef rib) from Boucherie Polmard in Paris is quite probably the world’s most expensive cut of beef. One steak costs over $3,200!

The rib steaks (cote de boeuf) being grilled on an open fire

Want to try the Côte de Boeuf at Boucherie Polmard? Get ready to open your wallet!

©iStock.com/Wirestock

What breed yields such an expensive cut? The Blonde d’Aquitaine is the exclusive breed used for this exorbitantly-priced steak. The breed is found in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States. However, farmers and ranchers should not expect such a return on their cattle. This singular restaurant in Paris goes to absurd lengths to prepare these pricey steaks.

The Polmard family farm raises the cattle free-range to maintain low-stress levels for the animals. Only one butcher in the country can handle the meat. After slaughtering, they chill the meat to -45 °F, blowing super-chilled air at a speed of 47 miles per hour. The meat then ages for a remarkable 15 years before serving.

Even with the extravagant price tag, there is a long waiting list for those who wish to dine on the world’s most expensive beef.

Blonde d'Aquitaine, Domestic Cattle from France, Herd standing near Road

The Blonde d’Aquitaine is the exclusive breed you can find at Boucherie Polmard in Paris.

©slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Mike is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on geography, agriculture, and marine life. A graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and a resident of Cincinnati, OH, Mike is deeply passionate about the natural world. In his free time, he, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks.

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