The Miniature Hereford has been developed by years by selective breeding of stock that was originally imported to the US from England in the early 19th Century. The Miniature Hereford breeding program was started by the Largent family, in Texas. The Largents initially concentrated on breeding the most efficient cattle suited to the local conditions of his ranch. After working on size reduction for several years with efficiency in mind they were able to offer the first Miniature Herefords for sale in the fall of 1989.
An excerpt of The Miniature Hereford by R. Rust Largent, 2005
The ancestry of Miniature Herefords goes back more than two hundred and fifty years. In England in the early 1700's most of the population lived in the country and most had multi-purpose oxen, as they were called then. They pulled their carts and furnished milk and meat for the family. As mid-century approached and city populations grew, there became a need for a beef animal to feed the cities. Some sought to fulfill the need for beef by utilizing the grain in Scotland, but a very industrious farm family who had been raising cattle, in the area of England called Herefordshire, made a determination to fulfill the need with a bovine that could efficiently produce beef from native grass pastures. Mr. Benjamin Tomkins made that decision in 1742 which is the starting point for Herefords. After several years of selecting individual animals that were heavy muscled and would fatten on grass, they closed their herd in 1758. At that time there seemed to be no definite breeds of cattle but were different groups who's names derived from their color markings. The Hereford color and marking was not in the planning at first, but it just so happened that the most influential bull in that closed herd was one from a group called white face, his name was Silver Bull and the 2 original cows were named Pigeon and Mottle. These names appear in the first American Hereford record.
Mr. Tomkins worked with the cattle for 47 years, then his son continued on for 25 more years. From that beginning, the Hereford breed was established and named after the area in England from which it came, Herfordshire. For the next hundred years, interested breeders, including the original family, continued to improve the traits of early maturity and the ability to fatten on grass. During this same period, the traditional markings of the Hereford that we know today, were firmly established. The first registry of the breed was established in the English Hereford herd book in 1846, and by the second half of the nineteenth century, Herefords were a dominant breed in England.
Henry Clay imported the first Herefords to America in 1817, a cow, a heifer and a young bull. Not ore than 250 head were imported before 1880 but by 1900 imports totaled 3600. Before the turn of the century in America, the cities of the east were growing and the vast areas of the west were being explored and settled. With the growing need for beef in the big cities and ample grass in the midwest to supply that need, a partnership was formed when two very capable business men, Mr. Gudgell and Mr. Simpson made a trip to England in 1882 and purchased several registered Hereford females and an outstanding, early maturing, heavy boned young bull with full muscled rear quarters. By the turn of the century, that young bull, Anxiety 4th, established himself to the point that today, he is called the Father of American Herefords. The present day Miniature Herefords are descendants of Anxiety 4th.
From the turn of the 20th century, and going through mid century, some of the outstanding bloodlines and individual bulls that are the ancestry of the Miniature Herefords are herein mentioned.
In 1902, Mr. C. M. Largent moved from Tennessee to Merkel, a small town in west Texas for his health, and he along with his four sons, became one of the first families in the state engaged in the breeding and showing of Registered Herefords. The Fairfax bloodline with which he started came from the bull named Perfection Fairfax and was one of the first great bloodlines. The Gay Lad line started by the bull Prime Lad was next. Then came Prince Domino, born September 13, 1914, the outstanding Hereford sire that has more descendants than any Hereford bull of all times. Prince Domino has been called the "mighty Caesar" of the 20th century.
For the next 50 years, individual breeders developed different bloodlines, many of which were from the sons of Prince Domino, who was a descendant of Anxiety 4th. At the same time, a "type" was being established, not only in Herefords but in the other English breeds as well. By mid century, this "type", the short legged, deep bodied, heavy muscled, early maturing Hereford, became the best, most efficient beef animal the world has ever known.
At some time in the mid 30's, a recessive dwarf gene showed up in one of the major herds in the northwest and without knowledge of the severity of the problem, through selling bulls, was spread into many bloodlines and individual herds. Other individual herds however, continued to develop bloodlines which did not have the problem. In the mid 50's, the American Hereford Association started checking pedigrees, at the owner's request. This check, revealing the carrier and non-carrier bloodlines of the recessive gene, soon solved the dwarf problem. the Real Silvers, Mischief's, Onwards, Colorado Dominos, Mill Irons, Zato Heirs and others, remained free from the dwarf gene. The same typed from these bloodlines continued to win in the show ring until the late 1960's. It is from these dwarf free bloodlines that the Miniature Herefords have been developed.
A Hereford congress was held in Wisconsin in 1969, at which, one of the major subjects discussed was that of size. Starting the next year the tallest were placed first in their class and made champions at all the major shows. This was said to have been done to compete with other larger breeds which were being imported at this time from other countries.
It was at this time, in 1969 that an actual breeding program was established by a grandson of C.M. Largent to maintain the type as described above and to fulfill the dream of Hereford perfection. Great effort has been made in the last quarter century to develop the little Herefords. Since right after the turn of the century, for three generations, the founding family had made their living in all aspects of raising Hereford cattle. To stay alive financially, a very difficult decision was made, go in two directions at the same time.
Larger bulls were purchased to make it possible to continue to sell to the demand for larger bulls. At the same time the smaller type females were selected to breed to a smaller bull. In time, the larger herd became smaller and the smaller herd became larger. Finally, in the fall of 1989 after not selling a small registered animal for breeding stock in 20 years, it was decided to start selling. Since that time, with the family working on the ranch, and as the results of effort and with the help of those breeders sold to, the wonderful, efficient small breed of Herefords has been well established.
The first small Herefords to be exhibited at a major show was in 1995 at the American Royal in Kansas City, Missouri, and since that time, they have been exhibited and shown at many small and major shows across the land. The smaller Herefords were shown for the first time at a major show in separate classes in the latter 90's.
As you can see, there have been many dedicated individuals of the past involved in the history of Herefords. The founding family of Miniature Herefords, which consist of third, forth, and fifth generation Hereford breeders along with the help of the many others that have purchased the little cattle have successfully developed and established a wonderful, efficient small breed of Herefords.