How to Identify Beef and Dairy Cattle

Cattle belongs to the family Bovidae, the two individual species of domesticated cattle are,

  • Bos Taurus– The humpless cattle
  • Bos indicus– The humped cattle

 Among them, some characteristics are identical while others are unique. The unique ones possess features that distinguish them in respect of their purpose, either dairy or beef cattle.

I will highlight their general features and also reel out the unique ones to aid the identification of individual cattle.


Cattle are naturally stocky in nature with long rectangular bodies and awesome gait. Bos indicus are called the humped cattle, they have hump over their shoulder and their head is relatively small compare to their body size.

Their coat color varies widely among breeds. Among the indigenous breeds, white Fulani is predominately white in color, they have black colour in their ears, muzzle, hoops and tip of their horn. Gudali have multiple coat colours ranging from dime fawn colour, grey and Brown. Muturu colours also varies from black, grey, red with white marking, lastly, Ndama having fawn uniform and white under the belly with darkened almost black extremities i.e tail, head etc. Also, the exotic breeds like the Devons having a deep reddish brown colour, Holstein having a characteristic cow print of black and white. Etc.

Another fascinating feature about cattle is their vision and hearing. Their eyes are located on the sides of their head allowing them to capture movement around them but take longer to focus on specific object. Their excellent peripheral vision creates a panorama effect on their sides. Their hearing tends to be sensitive to high pitched noise.

Cattle are herbivores; they feed primarily on grasses and stems. To pull up grass or a plant, the cow or bull twists its tongue around the plant and cut it off with its bottom teeth. In place of upper incisors, cattle have dental pads for grinding coarse grasses and other plant materials.

Cattle are ruminant possessing a four chambered stomach. The four chambers are the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum.


Dairy cattle are cattle bred for the ability to produce large quantities of milk; these cattle belong to the family Bos Taurus or the humpless cattle.

  • Dairy cattle are always docile and easy to handle, they are human-friendly. They are always calm and cool.
  • The wither of dairy cattle is angular and sharp with chine prominent, the ribs are also wide apart with the rip bones wide, flat and long. Also the chest is deep, large and wide. 
  • The skin is thin, loose and pliable.   
  • The hind bone is always thin.
  • Dairy cattle are long, thin with wedge shape. They have long and thin neck, blending smoothly into shoulders with clean cut throat, dewlap and brisket.
  • The pin bone and spin are always obvious.
  • The udders are larger and obvious. They are strongly attached with adequate capacity possessing quality and indicating heavy milk production.
  • Examples of indigenous dairy cattle are  Kuri, Wadara, White Fulani. The exotics are Holstein-Friesian, Brown Swiss, jersey, Ayrshire etc. 


The primary purpose for the existence of beef cattle is to produce large quantities of high quality beef. Beef cattle are basically short with thick bones and muscles with long broad backs and square rumps carrying more of the valued flesh.

  • Beef cattle have square wither unlike the dairy cattle with angular wither.
  • Beef cattle have short neck.
  • The pin bone of a beef cattle is fleshy and not obvious
  • The udder of a beef cattle are not obvious.
  • The hind bone is round.
  •  Examples of beef cattle are; White fulani, Muturu, Ndama

 Cattle rearing is a very lucrative business when all resources required are available. 

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!