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New Zealand: Rare
Importation: 1863

Aberdeen-Angus cattle

A Rare Breed of Scottish Origin

Champion Scottish-type Aberdeen-Angus bull from the early 20th century.
Champion Scottish-type Aberdeen-Angus bull from the early 20th century.

For almost a hundred years, the name Aberdeen-Angus was familiar to most New Zealanders as one of our two premier beef cattle breeds.

Historically, the Aberdeen-Angus was developed in the Scottish counties of Aberdeen and Angus in the northeast of Scotland during the early nineteenth century. A black polled breed, it was a much modified descendant of the original black Celtic cattle of the area, with an infusion of blood from animals introduced by Norse invaders. Its original purpose was to supply the English beef markets, but it quickly spread throughout the world, arriving in New Zealand in 1863. These first arrivals here were a bull and three cows imported by the Australian and New Zealand Land Company to Southland. Following more importations, the Company established New Zealand’s first Aberdeen-Angus stud at Totara in North Otago in the 1880s.

Purebred Pinebank Scottish Angus sire (627/89) 1993.
Purebred Aberdeen Angus Bull, 627/89
(Photo by Helen Mackenzie, 1993)

These original animals were a small, short and stout breed, not greatly dissimilar to those we know today as the » Australian Lowline and this type was retained in New Zealand until the 1950s.

      However, with the swing towards a demand for fat-free meat from beasts with leaner carcasses, the Aberdeen-Angus in New Zealand underwent a radical change in type in the latter half of the twentieth century.

New Zealand animals were crossed throughout the country with imported Angus bloodlines, mostly of larger animals, particularly from America. The result was the disappearance of the original Scottish type Aberdeen-Angus and the development of a taller, rangier breed simply called Angus – or New Zealand Angus.

Pinebank 41/97
Purebred Aberdeen Angus bull,
Pinebank 41/97

There are few herds left now in New Zealand which claim to be of pure Scottish blood – one of these is the Pinebank herd in Masterton, part of Waigroup Angus, which was closed in 1967 and contains no American blood. This historical herd was started in 1919 with animals that could be traced back to the Australian and New Zealand Land Company’s original imports to New Zealand. (Our thanks to Gavin Falloon of Waigroup Angus, Masterton, for assistance in producing this page.)

Another stud that has kept to original Aberdeen Angus genetics is the Waimata Stud in Gisborne, founded by Pat Watson in 1974, which prides itself in having cattle without any American bloodlines. Waimata pedigrees are traceable back 40 generations to the very first Angus cattle registered in Scotland.

Semen from top bulls in both herds has been exported overseas including to North America.

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