History of the Angus Society

The Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Breeders’ Society of South Africa was founded in 1917 with a membership of 12. It was affiliated to the South African Stud Book Association in 1918 and received its certificate of incorporation on 23 March 1921. Presently there are 140 registered stud breeding members as well as 50 registered commercial members and 14 non-active members. In addition, there are 2300 beef farmers in South Africa on our data-base who use Angus in their commercial farming operations.

When encapsulating the origin and history of the Aberdeen-Angus breed (known in South Africa as SA Angus) it is unnecessary to plunge deeply into the undergrowth of the distant past to show that if any breed can claim to meet the requirements of the modern age in the character of its product, it is the Angus. Considering its achievements, it might have evolved within the last hundred years.

Evidence exists, however, in the archeological features of the northeast of Scotland – the accepted source-territory of the Aberdeen Angus breed – that polled cattle existed in Scotland more than a thousand years ago. These features are sculptured stones, at least seventeen of which show horned and hornless cattle. Whether the polled variety were brought in by the early Norse invaders, as some antiquarians contend, or whether they were there earlier is a matter, today, of mere academic importance.

The early written history of Angus is obscure and lost in the unwritten annals of 16th century Scotland. The first evidence in writing of Angus cattle is explained as follows in McDonald and Sinclair’s History of Aberdeen Angus Cattle. “In the county of Aberdeenshire specific reference to the existence in 1523 of black polled or hummel cattle is found in a legal document…this document confirms the impression previously formed that this race is of great antiquity.” In the adjacent Scottish counties of Aberdeenshire and Angusshire, two local hornless strains developed, known in Aberdeenshire as hummel or humlies and in Angusshire as dodded or doddies. These areas of Scotland surrounded the route of old-time cattle in both areas began about the same time and took definite shape in the first decade of the nineteenth century. The main local breed in Aberdeen was very similar to that in Angus and the double-barrelled name therefore fits the origin of the breed perfectly.

After the union of England and Scotland in 1707 many northern farmers began exporting their surplus cattle to England graziers. This led to a greater demand for what was to become known as Prime Scots beef in London. By 1795, with the French Revolution raging, the price of grain soared, and this pushed the demand for beef in England to even higher levels. Scottish farmers soon learned they could earn more by finishing their own cattle and this caused the specialized production of their native polled stock as meat animals. That is why Angus is known as the only pure breed in the world bred exclusively for beef since its beginning.