The Red Angus breed originated in Europe and was introduced to England and Scotland by the Vikings/Norsemen raiding the coasts of England and Scotland.

They brought with them a small, dun-colored hornless cattle which interbred with native black horned Celtic cattle of inland Scotland. A naturally polled black breed was produced, which roughly corresponded to the black Aberdeen Angus of today, although it was a considerably smaller-bodied animal.

Eric L.C. Pentecost, the noted English breeder of Red Angus cattle, offers a specific and logical explanation for the introduction of the red coloration into the Aberdeen Angus breed.

In the eighteenth century, the black Scottish cattle were too light to provide sufficiently large draught oxen, so larger English longhorns, predominantly red in colour, were brought in and crossed with the black native polled breed.

The resultant offspring were all black polled animals, since black is a dominant colour, and red a recessive one. However, all carried the red gene. Subsequent interbreeding produced an average of one red calf in four, in accordance with Mendel’s law of heredity.

Early in the development of the Aberdeen Angus, Hugh Watson of Keillor, Scotland arbitrarily decided that black was the proper colour for the breed, and thereby started a fashion. He might well have chosen red instead.

Leon J. Cole and Sara V. H. Jones of the University of Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station published a pamphlet in 1920 on “The Occurrence of Red Calves in Black Breeds of Cattle” which contained this pertinent paragraph:

“One more point should be emphasised, namely that the red individuals appearing in such stock (Aberdeen Angus)…are just as truly ‘purebred’ as their black relatives, and there is no reason why, in all respects save colour, they should not be fully as valuable. The fact that they are discarded while the blacks are retained is simply due to the turn of fortune that black rather than red became established fashion for the Aberdeen Angus breed. Had red been the chosen colour, there would never have been any trouble with the appearance of blacks as off-colour individuals, since red-to-red breeds true.”