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Are There Cows In Jamaica?

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Are There Cows In Jamaica? | Jamaica Red (Photo: There Cows In Jamaica? | Jamaica Red (Photo:

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

Are There Cows In Jamaica? With one of our most renowned dishes being Oxtail and beef soup a must-have for most on a Saturday, I think it is safe to say, yes we do.

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Are cows native to Jamaica?

No, they are not but, they have been present on the island for more than 500 years. We do have 3 native cattle breeds though.

Who brought cows to Jamaica?

Cows have been in Jamaica since the Europeans were in charge of the island. Christopher Columbus introduced cattle to the Caribbean region during the period of Spanish rule and cattle rearing continued throughout the rule of the English as well.

How many cows are there in Jamaica?

The cattle rearing business in Jamaica is quite big. There is no way to tell how many cows there are on the island but approximately 27,000 cows are slaughtered each year.

Jamaican Cattle Breeds

Because cattle were not originally from the tropical region, they did not always do well on the island. But Dr. T.P. Lecky revolutionised the Jamaican cattle industry with his work in cattle breeding.

Throughout his adult life, he introduced 3 of Jamaica’s four indigenous cattle breeds, the Jamaica Hope, Red and Black.

Jamaica Hope

Are There Cows In Jamaica? | Jamaica Hope (Photo: There Cows In Jamaica? | Jamaica Hope (Photo:

This was Dr Lecky’s first attempt at breeding cattle better suited for the climate and rough terrain of Jamaica. He decided on using the British Jersey, Holstein and Indian Sahiwal breeds; Jersey is characterised by its ability to adapt to climates and terrains, the Holstein for its high milk production and the Indian Swahili (zebu) for its tolerance to heat tick-resistance and high resistance to parasites, both internal and external.

With this, he was able to create a cow that would be able to produce up to 12 litres of milk daily, which tripled the highest breeder at that time. Not only that, the Jamaica Hope, they found to be:

  • Heat tolerant
  • Tick tolerant
  • Enhanced fertility
  • Strong legs and feet
  • The efficient converter of tropical forage
  • High longevity (more than 5 lactations in most herds)
  • Excellent dairy characteristics

The current breed of the Jamaica Hope comprises 80% Jersey, 15% zebu and 5% Holstein and makes up for 80% of the cattle on the island.

Jamaica Red

Are There Cows In Jamaica? | Jamaica Red (Photo: There Cows In Jamaica? | Jamaica Red (Photo:

The Jamaican Red was developed from the Jamaican Brahman and Red Poll cattle breeds. Combining these two breeds translated into improved milk production without sacrificing the quality of the beef, which was the good doctor’s intention.

The mature bulls weigh about 1000 kg (2200 pounds) and females weigh 600 kg (1300 pounds). This breed has been exported to central and south America. The breed society was established in 1952.

Jamaican Brahman

As with all cattle in Jamaica, the Jamaican Brahman also has a high tolerance to heat. They also easily adapt to different feeding. The Brahman was also used in creating other types of Jamaican cattle for example the Jamaica Red.

When the British Red Pole was brought to Jamaica, it did not take well to the climate and had a grave issue with ticks. Mixing with the Jamaican Brahman made it more tolerant to the climate and resistant to ticks. It also had the dual purpose of milk and beef production. The Jamaican Brahman was also used to create the Jamaica Black.

The Brahman is mainly used for breeding and beef purposes.

Jamaica Black

Are There Cows In Jamaica? | Jamaica Black (Photo: There Cows In Jamaica? | Jamaica Black (Photo:

The Jamaica Black was Mr. Lecky’s last cattle breed. The Jamaica black was meant for the cooler areas of the island where other breeds did not do very well. The Black Aberdeen Angus from Scotland was brought in and combined with the Jamaican Brahman to produce the Jamaica Black. The Black is one of the most difficult breeds to care for and is, of all the cattle breeds, the one most feared of going extinct.

The cattle business in Jamaica is thriving and there are respective societies dedicated to each of Jamaica’s native cattle breeds. With yearly shows and festivals centred around agriculture, you can always see proud cattle farmers with their animals on display.

The Denbigh and Montpelier Agriculture Shows are two big ones. We actually went to the Montpelier Agriculture show, you can watch the video below.

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References & Sources For Are There Cows In Jamaica?

  1. 2022. Breeds of Livestock - Sahiwal Cattle — Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 August 2022].
  2. 2022. Jamaica Hope - Wikipedia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 August 2022].
  3. 2022. Thomas Lecky - Wikipedia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 August 2022].
  4. 2022. Zebu - Wikipedia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 August 2022].
  5. 2022. Jamaica cattle breeds at risk of extinction. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 August 2022].
  6. 2022. Dairy Cattle Breeds/Types in Jamaica | Jamaica Dairy Development Board. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 August 2022].
  7. 2022. Best of Jamaica’s Livestock on Display at Denbigh – Jamaica Information Service. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 August 2022].
  8. 2022. Jamaica Gleaner: Pieces of the Past: Famous Jamaican Scientists - Dreamers Among Us - The Father Of Jamaican Cattle - Part II. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 August 2022].

Are There Cows In Jamaica? | Written: September 01, 2022

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