Holstein Friesian Cattle Characteristics, Uses & Origin

The Holstein Friesian cattle is a breed of dairy cattle originating from the Dutch provinces of North Holland and Friesland, and Schleswig-Holstein in Northern Germany.

The breed’s name is often shortened to ‘Holsteins‘ in North America. But the term ‘Friesians‘ is often used in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Currently, it is known as the world’s highest-production dairy animals.

The Dutch and German breeders bred and oversaw the development of the breed with the goal of obtaining animals that could best use grass (the area’s most abundant resource). Over the centuries, the result was a high-producing, black-and-white dairy cow.

Currently, the Holstein Friesian cattle is the most widespread cattle breed in the world. And today the breed is present in more than 150 countries.

In Europe, the Holstein Friesian breed is used for meat in the south, and milk in the north.

And since 1945, the European national development has led to cattle breeding and dairy products becoming increasingly regionalized.

More than 80% of dairy production is north of a line joining Bordeaux and Venice, which also has more than 60% of the total cattle. This change led to the need for specialized animals for dairy (and beef) production.

Until this time, milk and beef had been produced from dual-purpose animals. The breeds, national derivatives of the Dutch Friesian, had become very different animals from those developed by breeders in the United States, who used Holsteins only for dairy production.

Breeders imported specialized dairy Holsteins from the United States to cross with the European black and whites. For this reason, in modern usage, “Holstein” is used to describe North or South American stock and its use in Europe, particularly in the North.

“Friesian” denotes animals of a traditional European ancestry, bred for both dairy and beef use. Crosses between the two are described by the term “Holstein-Friesian”.[1]


The Holstein Friesian cattle are very beautiful animals. They have distinctive markings, usually black and white or red and white in coloration.

In some rare occasions, some animals have both black and red coloring with white. Red factor causes this unique coloring.

holstein friesian cow, holstein friesian cattle, holstein friesian picture

Blue is also a known color of these cattle. Blue color is produced by white hairs mixed with the black hairs giving the cow a bluish tint. This coloring is also known as ‘blue roan’ in some farm circles.

The Holstein Friesians are medium in size. Typically a mature cow weights between 680 and 770 kg. And a healthy calf weights between 40 and 50 kg.


The Holstein Friesian cattle is actually a dual-purpose breed. It is used for both meat and milk production purpose. But in some countries, the breed is known for it’s high milk production.

Special Notes

The Holstein Friesian cattle are extremely hardy and strong animals. They can adapt themselves to a wide variety of agro-climatic conditions. That’s why they are available throughout the world in more than 150 countries.

The breed is very popular mainly for it’s high milk production. A cow on average can produce about 10,200 kg of milk per year. Their milk is of pretty good quality containing 3.7 percent of butterfat content and about 3.1 percent protein.

Generally, breeders plan for Holstein heifers to calve for the first time between 21 and 24 months of age and 80% of adult body weight. The gestation period is about nine and a half months.

However, read some more information about this breed in the table below.

Breed NameHolstein Friesian
Other NamesKnown simply as Holsteins & Friesians in some areas
Breed PurposeBoth milk and meat
Special NotesGood behavior and temperament, known for their hardiness and their ability to convert grass into milk efficiently, able to adapt a wide variety of climates, very good for milk production, milk is of pretty good quality, the breed is also good for meat
Breed SizeMedium
BullsBetween 680 and 770 kg
CowsBetween 680 and 770 kg
Climate ToleranceAll climates
Coat ColorGenerally black and white patched coat, occasionally red and white
Milk YieldGood
Country/Place of OriginNetherlands, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland

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