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Cattle Breeds - Bonsmara



The Bonsmara originates from South Africa, it has been scientifically bred and strictly selected for economical production in extensive cattle grazing in sub-tropical climates. In 1937 it was generally noted that British breeds did not have the required heat tolerance for the sub tropics and that the Afrikaner did not perform as well in terms of calving regularity. Professor Jan Bonsma decided to test different breed combinations at the Messina Livestock Research Station.

Photo courtesy of Proveld Bonsmara,
Bulls of five British Beef breeds were used on Afrikaner cows and the progeny then performance tested. After pilot trials it was decided to continue only with the better performing Hereford and Shorthorn cross-breds. Ultimately three-quarter Afrikaners were mated to half-breeds to obtain progeny with 5/8 Afrikaner and 3/8 Hereford or Shorthorn blood.

The first results were already encouraging. Under the management circumstances prevailing at Mara in those days, the weaning weights of the crossbred cows were on average 195kg at 240 days (about 20% higher than those of the three parent breeds). Likewise the calving percentages of the crossbred cows were appreciably higher. The calf mortality was much lower than in the British Beef breeds and close to that of the more resistant Afrikaners.

Through strict selection of breeding animals rapid progress was made. Within 20 years after the initial cross-breeding trials a superior cattle breed, performing better than other breeds in the bushveld of the Northern Transvaal, had been established.

The name "Bonsmara" was derived from "Bonsma", the man who played a major role in the development of the breed, and "Mara", the farm on which the animals were bred.

Interestingly, Bonsma had a unique method of scale photography, so Bonsmara is the only breed in the world that can boast a pictorial genealogy from the very beginning of the breeding work until the new breed was established.

The Bonsmara has become so popular that it has grown to be numerically the strongest beef breed in South Africa in less than 25 years.

For a more in depth write-up of the creation of this breed click here.


Photo courtesy of Australian Bonsmara Developments, Wirlinga Stud,
The Bonsmara is red in colour with a blend of Bos indicus and Bos taurus attributes. They are horned but must be de-horned to conform with breed standards. Body conformation and traits have all been selected for to satisfy the commercial requirements of todays market.

Today all inspected and approved purebred Bonsmaras are branded with the Bonsmara symbol on the right shoulder.


  • Well adapted to sub-tropical climate
  • Fertile
  • Calving ease
  • High quality meat
  • Calm temperament and easy handling
  • Performance tested and inspected to minimum breed standards
  • Suitable for use in cross breeding
  • Distribution

    The Bonsmara is mainly bred in Africa, 60,000 registered females are currently being performance recorded with the commercial and seedstock herds, adding to around 4 million head. It has been recently exported to North America and Australia.

    References (the above information was cited from the following sites)

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