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History of red-pied Friesian cattle

In the past, Dutch cows were predominantly red-pied in colour. In those days, the red-pied Friesian cow was one of the breeds originating from the province of Friesland. The breed is found in the Netherlands as early as the Middle Ages.


In 1750, the cattle plague hit the Netherlands and three-quarters of the livestock died. To compensate this loss, black-pied cows were imported from Denmark and Germany. These animals formed the ancestors of Friesian-Dutch cattle.


At the end of the nineteenth century, the Dutch cow was very popular abroad due to its high milk production. From North America mainly, there was great demand for exclusively black-pied cattle. American stock-breeders regarded black-pied cattle as the purest breed and continued breeding with these Dutch cows. A cow with an even higher milk production was bred: the black-pied Holstein-Friesian. As from that time black-pied cattle was regarded undeservedly as superior in quality and milk production. In the second half of the twentieth century, this productive milking cow overruns the world - including the Dutch market. The number of red-pied cows in the Netherlands declined dramatically and only a small group of farmers held on to the breeding of red-pied cows.


In 1904, the Dutch Cattle Herdbook (CRV) decided to exclusively register black-pied cattle. That colour had to become a distinctly recognizable racial characteristic, especially abroad. The Friesian Cattle Herdbook (FRS) struggled with the same problem. They chose the happy medium: mixed coloured cattle were bred out of the herdbook, but the red-pied animals (at that time, only three per cent of the registered animals) were retained under the name of Friesian Red-pied.

Hermke drievoud


In 1957, the Association Breeders of Red-pied Friesian Pedigree Cattle was established. At that time, red-pied Friesian-Dutch cows numbered around 2,500 in the herdbook. Owing to the rise of the productive black-pied Holstein-Friesian, the number of red-pied Friesian cattle strongly decreased. It was time to take action.


For that reason, the Foundation of Red-pied Friesian Cattle was established in 1993. The foundation formulated a breeding programme in cooperation with the farmers and stored sperm of pure red-pied Friesian cattle in the gene bank. Currently, there are only around five hundred red-pied Friesian cows.


Only a part of these cows are pure-bred: they descend in the male line from the bull Vondeling I, born in 1914. This bull was abandoned because of the anti-red policy of the herdbook and became the symbol of the red-pied Friesian cattle breeding.