Dexter Cattle

The Dexter Breed is linked back to ancient Irish cattle breeds. They have innate characteristics making them suitable for wild, wet, woodland areas of old. Habitats, though reduced, are still maintained in Brave Herder farmlands. Dexter cattle can be red or black coated, with about 20% of Dexters being 'short-legged' or miniature cattle.

How Dexters are Different:

50% smaller than European Breeds

Dexters are considerably smaller than European breeds. Smaller size means less poaching, damage to soil as Dexters graze in Irish fields, which are commonly wet.

Supplement diet with shrubs, weeds & bark.

Dexters are more likely to consume naturally growing shrubs, weeds & bark. Commonly seen among Brave Herders, Dexters will eat brambles, Ivy & bark. We believe this adds to the nutrician in their diet (and hopefully yours too) & means that farmers spend less time keeping weeds down.

Preference for wooded areas

When given the choice, Dexters will remain most of the time in wooded areas, over open grassland. We believe this is a trait inherited from a time when Ireland was covered mostly in woodland.

Protective Mothers
Excellent mothers to calves

Brave Herders of Dexter Cattle will tell you that Dexters are particularly protective mothers. Upon birth, calves will be hidden in scrubland, not being allowed to venture out for days. Again, we believe this is due to ancient traits, prior to farming, where protecting young at birth was vital.

Slow Maturing
Dexters take 3 years to mature

European breed beef commonly available in supermarkets, will have a life span of 16-24 months. Dexters, not subject to generations of husbandry selection for fast growing characteristics, will mature for beef between 30-36 months. Increasing the lifespan of the beef animal is better for the animal, but also better for the consumer, as this time leads to a naturally marbled & more tender beef.

History of Dexter Cattle

The Dexter originated in Ireland. Like the Kerry, they are descended from the predominately black cattle of the early Celts.

The breed owes its name to a Mr. Dexter who was agent to a Lord Hawarden (pronounced ‘Harden’) who came to Ireland in 1750 and made his home in Co Tipperary. Mr Dexter is said to have produced his breed by selection from the best of the hardy mountain cattle of the area.

Dexter cattle were first introduced into England in 1882, when ten Dexters were purchased by Mr. Martin. J. Sutton of Kidmore Grange, Oxfordshire from Mr. James. Robertson of La Mancha, Nr Malahide, Dublin. They were first shown at the Royal Show at Norwich in 1886.

By 1892, this native Irish breed was so well established in Great Britain that at a meeting of breeders at the Smithfield club on December 6th resulted in the formation of the Kerry and Dexter/Kerry cattle society.

With the lineage intact, Irish breeders of Dexter began to re-emerge in the 1990s, 2000s. The Dexter joined the Kerry, the Droimeann and the Irish Maol on the list of cows which have been granted Native Rare Irish Breed status. A recent drive by farmers has led to an increase in numbers for Dexter & support for the breed is growing all the time.

How many Dexter are in the country?

Dexters are still a rare breed and not as plentiful as existing continental, non-native cattle breeds. Consumers of Dexter helped to increase numbers of the breed by providing a market to farmers. Be that as it may, national herd numbers are rising slowly relative to demand and as such availability be subject to change. Estimates are that there are about 3000 Dexters in Ireland with about 200 breeders.

Other farmers opt to cross-breed Dexters, however we believe that the best way to promote this exceptional product is to maintain its integrity and as such we only offer purebred Dexter beef. In this way, you can be guaranteed an authentic experience.

All Brave Herder farms are registered with the Irish Dexter Cattle Society.