The Limousin was developed centuries ago in rugged southern France. No one can pinpoint its ancestry exactly, but many historians believe it is closely related to other cattle breeds from southwestern Europe, particularly the Blonde d’Aquitaine.
Wherever it came from, the Limousin was designed to thrive in a harsh environment with only limited supervision. The French came to be very proud of this breed, because it could subsist on grass alone and still put its shoulder to the yoke whenever required. Not only that, but when its working days were over it fattened readily and made a good beef animal.
In the late 1700s, however, the French decided that the Limousin was too small and lightly built to supply their rapidly growing cities with meat. For several decades, the breed was crossed with a number of larger French oxen, such as the Charolais. The result was a tall, well-muscled version of the Limousin, complete with a remarkably enhanced appetite. Since rocky southern France was not the ideal place to grow crops for cattle feed, the breeding experiment was abandoned—for a time.
The early 1900s saw the advent of man-made forages and fertilizers. Once lusher pastures were a possibility, Limousin breeders again turned their attention to supplying the country’s unceasing demand for beef. This time, however, the tool was selective mating within the breed, rather than crossbreeding. Slowly the Limousin began to change into the larger, more muscular animal we are used to seeing today.
Meanwhile, North American cattlemen were eagerly investigating the breeds of continental Europe. They were impressed by the size of the cattle, but it took some time to figure out how to overcome quarantine restrictions. As was usually the case, the Canadians were the first to conquer this obstacle. The Limousin arrived in their country in 1968.
Once the Canadian population of Limousin cattle was established, the United States had a source from which they could safely import a few of their own. Semen was shipped in for several years. Then in 1971, a Canadian Limousin bull named Kansas Colonel came to Topeka. The breed spread northward and southward through the central states, and then exploded across the nation.
Overnight popularity led to a race for bigger and bigger frames, while qualities such as good temperament and ease of maintenance fell by the wayside. As black-hided cattle rose to prominence in sale barns nationwide, the next fad goal was to create a black Limousin through crossbreeding with the Angus.
Limousin breeders, however, have decidedly changed the direction of their breed in the last few decades. In the early 1990s, restoring docility to the Limousin was chosen as the number-one goal. Since then, these dedicated cattlemen have been tackling one weakness after another, shaping the Limousin into a more practical beef breed.
Limousins are strictly beef cattle. Although purebreds can be used for meat, typically they are crossed with more popular British breeds such as the Angus to add a little marbling to the offspring.
Today’s Limousin is typically calm and good-natured. There are many reliable bulls in existence, and overall the breed is easy to work with. However, potential buyers should make sure they are purchasing their cattle from a reputable source because there are still a few dangerous Limousins out there. These individual cattle vary between nervous and aggressive, and are extremely unpredictable.
Limousins are typically healthy and hardy. Genetic defects do exist in the breed, but can easily be avoided by purchasing cattle from a responsible breeder.
- Adaptability to most conditions, but particularly cold climates.
- Exceptional fertility in both bulls and cows.
- Calving ease.
- Calf vigor.
- Great mothering instincts.
- Large, high-yielding carcass.
- High percentage of top-dollar cuts.
- Lean beef.
- Good flavor.
- Good prices for black Limousins at sale barns.
- Variable quality.
- Tendency to jump fences.
- High maintenance requirements.
- Late maturity.