Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #309144

Title: Criollo cattle: Heritage genetics for arid landscapes

item Anderson, Dean
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item Gonzalez, Alfredo
item CIBILS, ANDRES - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/19/2014
Publication Date: 4/1/2015
Publication URL:
Citation: Anderson, D.M., Estell, R.E., Gonzalez, A.L., Cibils, A.F. 2015. Criollo cattle: Heritage genetics for arid landscapes. Rangelands. 37(2):62-67.

Interpretive Summary: Producers, scientist and environmentalist all accept that raising livestock in the 21st century with the smallest “hoof print” possible is a very challenging endeavor. Corillo cattle, a biotype not a breed, trace their ancestry back to the first cattle brought into North America by the Spaniards and appear to have evolved in several locations in Mexico without the influence of European cattle genetics. This has resulted in an extremely well adapted foraging animal for arid environments. The Mexican Criollo offer an especially interesting set of genetics because of its purity. This manuscript represents the first attempt to bring together into one publication what has currently been published on these cattle. These cattle hold exciting potential not only because of their pure genetics but also in well-designed crossbreeding programs have the potential to improve foraging distribution among free-ranging cattle.

Technical Abstract: Thirty cows and three bulls from the Chinipas region in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, were introduced onto the US Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service’s Jornada Experimental Range (JER) in 2005. Since then behavioral research has revealed these cattle, most accurately referred to as Raramuri Criollo (RC) cattle, appear well adapted to the harsh and variable climate of the Chihuahuan Desert Ecosystem characterized by abundant woody vegetation and highly variable spatial and temporal precipitation. Observations to date indicate Criollo cattle are thrifty, docile, easy-to-manage, have a long and productive lifespan and require minimal management. Research from Arizona suggests Criollo beef is flavorful and equal in tenderness to that of European breeds managed under similar grass-fed production systems. The JER is maintaining the pure genetics of RC cattle that have undergone many years of natural selection in Mexico to study their nutritional and behavioral characteristics. If these cattle have traits that are desirable in these fragile ecosystems they could have a positive influence on crossbreeding programs for animals destined to dominate arid landscapes.