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, the French made a short-lived attempt to cross the Limousin with the larger Charolais to enhance its beef production. The remarkably enhanced appetite of the new version of the Limousin was a poor fit with the rocky fields of southern France, so the experiment was abandoned until the early 1900s and the advent of man-made forages and fertilizers. 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 Continental breeds. They were impressed by the size of the Limousin, but it took some time to figure out how to overcome quarantine restrictions. The Canadians imported the breed first in 1968. Once the breed was established among our northern neighbors, Canada became a safe source of Limousin semen that the United States took advantage of for several years. Then in 1971, a Canadian Limousin bull named Kansas Colonel came to Topeka. The breed spread northward and southward across 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.
But Limousin seedstock producers 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, they are usually 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 seedstock producer.
- 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.