Bos taurusHolstein Cow


  • Bovidae


  • 6 years*


  • Height:  58-60 inches at shoulder
  • Weight:  1500-2000 pounds


  • This breed originated in the Netherlands about 2000 years ago


  • Only found in captivity, this animal can graze in fields and grasslands


  • Wild:  Not found in the wild; cattle ancestors would have eaten grasses and similar plant matter
  • Zoo:  Hay and high fiber grain in cold weather or for treats


  • Holstein heifers (young female cattle that have not yet been bred) can be bred as young as 15 months old but the ideal age to first breed a female is between 24 and 27 months. 1-2 young are born after a gestation of 9 months.

Special adaptations

  • Cattle are ruminant digesters and process food through a 4-chambered stomach. This adaptation allows them to leech as many nutrients from their food as possible, which in turn allows ruminants to be able to survive in places where non-ruminant herbivores could not live. They also do not have to consume as much food to supply their bodies with energy.
  • Cattle tongues are extremely long – they lick their interior nasal cavities to increase the amount of good bacteria in their digestive tract, which help break down the course matter in their diet.


  • Holsteins are one of the most easily recognizable dairy cows in the world
  • Cutie Pie, our resident Holstein, loves attention and people. She can almost always be found at her fence line waiting to greet visitors!
  • Ruminants usually do not have upper incisors or canines, just a rough pad on the roof of their mouths
  • Cattle are considered to be the most important livestock animal and are among the most populous domestic animal

Conservation status

  • IUCN: Not evaluated
  • CITES: Not Listed
  • Although domestic cattle are not threatened, there are 5 Bovid species which are in need of protections:
    • Bos gaurus (Gaur)
      • IUCN: Vulnerable
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • Found in India, China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia
    • Bos javanicus (Banteng)
      • IUCN: Endangered
      • CITES: Not Listed
      • Found in Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and sporadically in Indonesia.  Small population introduced to Australia
    • Bos mutus (Wild Yak)
      • IUCN: Vulnerable
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • Found in China.  Historically found in China and India.  Believed to be extinct in all countries except China
    • Bos sauveli (Grey Ox/Kouprey)
      • IUCN: Critically Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • Found in Cambodia and southern Laos
    • Bubalus arnee (Indian Water Buffalo)
      • IUCN: Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix III
      • Found in India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia; all extremely fragmented

*It is likely they can live much longer, but most owners do not keep cattle past prime production, which is around 6 years.


  1. Feldhamer, George A. et al., Mammalogy: Adaptation, diversity, and ecology. 2nd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
  2. CITES Appendices. Accessed December 2012.
  3. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.

Holstein Cow