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History of Red Charolais

Interest and demand for Red Charolais Cattle is exploding and yet there is very little documented history on the origins of this unique version of Charolais Cattle. The Charolais breed itself has a well-documented history however little effort has been made to establish how, when and where the red colored Charolais came from. The J Bar S has been breeding Charolais cattle since 1968 and has made considerable effort to expand the Red Charolais breed. The following information is based on settled scientific genetic data and historical information gleaned from elder breeders throughout the past 50 plus years.

When discussing color genetics, it’s much better to look to the Continental French Charolais rather than the American Charolais. The reason being that much emphasis has been placed by the American breeders to keep Charolais a snow-white breed. It is extremely rare for any color to be produced from American Charolais genetics. If we look to the French Charolais we see many cattle with a red tinge and some that could be considered light red. When researching the Charolais true color you will discover that all Charolais cattle are actually solid red in color, but they have been diluted to white by a dominate diluter gene. It’s the same as mating a Palomino horse to another Palomino and then continue to breed white to white resulting in a snow-white horse. A Red Charolais is a Pure Charolais without the diluter gene. The white head on a Hereford is a true white color and almost all Hereford cross calves have a white head. When you cross a white Charolais on another breed the Charolais diluter gene merely dilutes the solid-colored parents color to tan or grey but not white.  If Charolais were a pure white, then a percentage of their offspring on colored cows would be white and the others be the color of the dam. A white Charolais bull sire’s calves that are the diluted color of its mother, IE: smokey from black cows and tan on red cows. Even a calf from a Holstein cow will have the color pattern of the dam with the black portion being diluted to smokey.
















Another desirable result with the Red Charolais is that they will not produce “rat tail “calves. The rat tail gene is a companion gene to the diluter gene. The Simmental breed is notorious for producing “rat tail” progeny and also carries a diluter gene.

The development of the Red Charolais is not well documented however very knowledgeable older breeders, especially those in Canada describe how the Red Charolais developed to the numbers we see today.

Historically the white color has been the preferred and by far the most prevalent color of Charolais. Many French Charolais have a reddish tint to their white coats, much more than the snow white American Charolais genetics. When a red calf is born in France it would be used for meat not for breeding.

When Hitler invaded Poland at the beginning of World War II, the Nazi army decimated Poland’s agriculture, especially 

Poland’s incredible livestock which was considered the finest in Europe. The French Charolais Breeders were very concerned that the same devastation would happen in France. Which did happen. Many Charolais herds were sent into the Alps for hiding. These cattle spent up to 7 or more years away from their owner’s direct control. When these cattle were gathered and returned to the pastureland of France there were many red colored Charolais cattle. These reds were still not the desired color, however when French Charolais semen made its way to Canada in the early 1960’s a small percentage of the non-diluter Red Charolais cattle kept showing up in the calving pasture. A group of opened minded Canadian Charolais breeders started keeping these cattle for breeding and the Red Charolais was established as a version of Purebred Registered Charolais. The Canadian Charolais Association recognized the Red Charolais as registered purebred early on, and the American International Charolais Assn. recognizes the Red Charolais as a Purebred Charolais as well.



  • The Red Charolais as a norm is of more French Charolais breeding because French cattle have a much higher percentage of non-diluter genetics.

  • The Red Charolais is Purebred Charolais just without a diluter gene.

  • Both the American (AICA) and the Canadian Charolais Association recognize and register the Red Charolais as a Purebred Charolais.

  • The Red Charolais does not produce “rat tail” progeny.


The Following pictures are of Full French Charolais Cattle. These bulls represent the top French Charolais genetics available in their native land. Their underlying red color is very visible. These Full French Charolais have a different color then their snow-white American Cousins and are the foundation genetics for the Red Charolais today.

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