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Breed information


Geographical - historical info 

The Swiss Simmental traces back to cattle which were originally indigenous to the Simme and Saane valleys of the canton of Bern in Switzerland. They represented one of the strains of a large group of red and pied Central European valley and mountain cattle. Their origins are thought to be found in the large Medieval cattle which the itinerant South German Allemanic tribes brought with them to Switzerland during the 5th century. It is known that during the late Middle Ages the farmers of Emmental earned good money with dairy products.  


In due course the different red pied strains of Bernese-Oberland were amalgamated under the name Simmentaler Fleckvieh. Around the turn of the century the united breed societies formulated an uniform ‘true-type’, while the Swiss Department of Agriculture granted breeding permits for approved Fleckvieh bulls after 1891.


When the first breed inventory was made in Switzerland in 1886, Simmentaler Fleckvieh, including both red pieds and (Fribourg) black pieds, numbered 619,919 head, 51% of the total cattle population. Today the Simmental, is still the most numerous breed of Switzerland, with 848,000 head kept in the Western half of the country. It now accounts for 43,7% of the total cattle population (1988).


The Simmental is bred throughout Europe. It has become a popular beef breed in Great Britain, where it is kept for beef and crossbreeding. The British Simmental numbered 15,000 females and 650 sires in 1986. In North America, where the breed was imported for the first time in 1886, the breed became really important after the late 1960s, when it became a prime beef breed, at a cost to the Hereford. Herdbook societies have also been established in Africa (in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa), in Mexico, Brazil, Argentine, Paraguay, Uruguay and in Australia. In 1974 when the global Simmental population was estimated at 40-60 million, the World Simmental Federation was established, in which societies from 19 countries are represented. It is bred both for its virtues as a dairy/beef breed or as single-purpose beef breed, and it is also widely used to improve local herds


Morphological info

Simmental cows have an average milk yield of 5,500 kg at 4%fat and 3.5% protein; steers have a daily live weight gainof over one kg, carcasses dress out at a high percentage of live weight and provide fine-grained meat. Originally the Bernese-Simmental was a big, heavy boned, somewhat coarse breed with a red colour, with or without a white head. As the buyers from Germany and the Balkan countries wanted larger, dairy/work/beef animals, the Swiss selected towards such a type around the turn of the 20th century. By 1925 cows had reached an average wither height of 150 cm and bulls 165 cm. By then, however, smaller, light yellow pied coloured animals came into demand and in the period 1935-55 the height at withers decreased by 15 cm. Subsequently the resulting small, heavy, short-legged type, was found to be a mistake, as these cows were late-maturing, gave less milk and had calving problems. It took the Simmental breeders about 20 years to get their cattle to the desired, productive dual-purpose type again. Characteristic of the Simmental are its yellowish to red pied colour with the white head, the upturned horns and the heavy dewlap. 


Cows of this heavy dual-purpose type stand 138-144 cm at the withers and weigh 700-900 kg and bulls stand 150-158 cm at the withers and average 1,300 kg. However, the use of Red Holstein bulls since 1967 has been so overwhelming that purebred dual-purpose type Swiss Simmental cattle have now become restricted to the high valleys. Registered as purebred Simmental since January 1994, are animals with less than 14% Red Holstein blood.             


Source: Marleen Felius, Cattle breeds - an encyclopedia, Doetinchem, Netherlands : Misset, 1995




Simmental links


Cattle Today

British Simmental Cattle Society

American Simmental Association

Irish Simmental Cattle Society

Canadian Simmental Association

Simmental Australia

World Simmental-Vleckvieh Federation

Danish Simmental Society

Simmental Cattle Breeders' Society of New Zealand

Swedish Simmental Association (only in Swedish)

Schweizerischer Fleckviehzuchtverband (in German and French only)

Arbeitsgemeinschaft Süddeutscher Rinderzucht-
und Besamungsorganisationen e. V. (german dual purpose breeds)

European Simmental Federation




Basic breed info
Name: Swiss Simmental

Origin: Switzerland, authentic breed

Status: Regional/ Global

Size: Large

Purpose: Dairy/Beef



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