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Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science

Breeds of Livestock - Kerry Cattle

Breeds of Livestock - Kerry Cattle


Kerry cattle are most probably the descendants of the Celtic Shorthorn, brought to Ireland as long ago as 2000 B.C. They are still found grazing in the marginal pastures of the hill districts of southwestern Ireland. Kerries were imported to the United States beginning in 1818 and the breed prospered through the early 20th century. But by the 1930's, however, it had practically disappeared from North America. Today there are few Kerrys in the United States and only a few herds, based on recent imports, in Canada.

The Kerry is a small-sized, fine-boned dairy breed, mostly black in color. Cows weigh between 780-1000 pounds and are horned. Milk production averages 7000-8000 pounds, but can occasionally exceed 10,000 pounds, with over 4% butterfat. Kerrys are hardy and long-lived, often still calving at 14-15 years of age.

By 1983 the world population of pedigreed Kerrys had dropped to around 200. The Irish Department of Agriculture has since taken steps to support the maintenance of the breed and numbers are again creeping upwards.


Critically endangered. Kerrys are globally rare, and thus the few herds in Canada are of great importance.


American Livestock Breeds Notebook. The Livestock Conservancy, Pittsboro, NC 1989.


Jody Jess, Buckhill Kerry Farm, Massachusetts.

The Livestock Conservancy PO Box 477, 33 Hillsboro St, Pittsboro, NC 27312



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updated Monday, January 10, 2000


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