If you’ve never been around cows, and I mean live in-person and next to them, it is easy to be fooled. These animals are just plain big!
And aside from a few notably petite breeds like the Dexter, I think it’s safe to say that all cows fit legitimately into the large category of the animal kingdom.
But there are some breeds, several in fact, that go way past large into absolutely huge territory!
The breeds below are the kings of the bovine kingdom if girth and sheer physical stature is what will win the crown. Keep reading and I’ll tell you all about 13 of the biggest cow breeds in the world.
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If you really care about the history of cattle breeds, the Limousin, or in its native French tongue Limousine, has an amazing story just waiting to be told.
Originally draught animals, but today an important meat breed raised around the world, the Limousin was originally considered a loser in most regards.
On the precipice of being merged with other French breeds, a breeders’ association sprang up and started selecting for ideal qualities, slowly turning around the reputation of these inherently French cows.
Out of the truly large species, these cows today are near the upper end of the spectrum with bulls maxing out at a truly impressive 2,850 pounds and standing at a majestic 5 feet tall at the withers.
The cows are significantly smaller, but still quite sizable, topping out at around 1,750 pounds.
The Limousin is a fascinating entry in cattle history, and a true underdog, or should we say under-cow despite its great size and strength.
Developed in France through long experimentation, experimentation that continues to this day, the Maine-Anjou Reed was historically used for dual purpose, both meat and milk, but today, better known as the Rouge des Pres, it’s a meat breed alone.
In any case, this is another truly gargantuan domestic breed, and though there is a huge weight range exhibited it is possible for the largest bulls to clear 3,200 pounds, and cows, the dramatically lighter, are still immense at around 2,200 pounds.
This is also a notably tall extra-large breed, with males standing around 5 feet 6 in at the shoulder.
Also interestingly, this cow has proven to be quite popular in the United States, and 1/3 of the breed population is in the US, with importations beginning in mid-1960s.
It seems that a lot of the world’s cows come from France, and that certainly applies to many of the world’s largest breeds. The Parthenaise is one such cow.
Another heritage breed with a long and distinguished history, and one of only a few tri-use (milk, meat, draught) breeds still around, the Parthenaise is a breed that we’re lucky to still have with us considering it was nearly wiped out in the aftermath of World War II.
Males are quite large, maxing out at around 2,400 pounds and standing a little bit over 6 feet tall at the withers. Females are significantly lighter, rarely exceeding 1600 pounds and on average standing about 6 inches shorter.
4. South Devon
A famous British breed of cow that has long been kept for the quality of its milk and beef, although its developmental history is pretty murky. We do know, though, that the breed has been around since at least the late 19th century.
And because it’s on this list you know these cows are whoppers: males typically weigh around 2,500 pounds, and stand 5 feet tall at the shoulder, with females weighing only a few hundred pounds less and a couple of inches shorter. Talk about a power couple!
Also notable is that this breed has a substantial fraction of the population carrying a genetic mutation that results in a sort of muscular hypertrophy.
Though this does significantly decrease the affected cows’ quality of life, the yield and meat from cows so affected is quite enormous.
Holding the crown as the single biggest cow breed in the world, the Chianina is a massive, white cow that comes from Italy.
With bulls tipping the scales at an absolutely preposterous 3,300 pounds, and females still maxing out at an enormous 2,200 pounds.
It’s no stretch to say that these are certainly the heaviest of the extant domestic breeds around. It’s common for adults to stand over 6 feet tall at the shoulder!
These cows are so big that they have historically been used as draught animals for pulling wagons and all sorts of other heavy equipment.
One of the biggest dairy-specialized domestic breeds in the world, the French Montbeliarde has been around since the 1870s and is renowned for the quality of its milk as used for cheese making.
Bulls are quite huge, although even they pale next to some of the monsters on this list but they are noteworthy for being relatively tall for their weight, maxing out at around 2,625 pounds and standing just a tad over 5 feet at the shoulder.
Once again, even mature cows are dramatically lighter, with females rarely weighing more than 1,500 pounds.
It is notable that males and females tend to be the same height, however.
I hope you aren’t tired of French draught cattle yet, because we aren’t quite to the end of their entries on this list!
The Bazadaise, also called the Grise de Bazas, also among the smaller cows on our list, is still an enormous animal by any common standard.
Bulls top out at a relatively slim and trim 2,200 pounds and are relatively short compared to the other giants here at about 4 3/4 feet tall.
Like many French breeds that were pushed into threatened conservancy status in the years following World War II, this cow was among them, and as recently as the 1970s, there were only several hundred cows left in the world.
Thanks to extensive efforts from breeders and scientists, there are now a few thousand, and their status is no longer at risk. That’s a great thing because their beef is said to be of superlative quality these days.
I told you we weren’t done with the big French boys, yet! The Charolais is one of the very biggest, very heaviest cows on this list and in the world, but it is still an important beef breed that is present in nearly 70 countries around the world.
Of the heritage French cow breeds, it is the Charolais that is the most numerous in France., Also, this breed is so historically important that the region it hails from has been labeled as a World Heritage Site.
But get this, these cows are nothing short of mammoth: bulls weigh in at a mind-bending 3,625 pounds!
And petite relatives only to the immense bulls, females usually top out at about 2,600 pounds- bigger than the males of many other breeds! It is hard to believe that any cow, anywhere, can be so big but the Charolais surely is.
An interesting all-American breed, if you overlook the fact that it was bred in the late 19th century from Indian stock, the Brahman cow is immediately recognizable by its distinctive humped back, making it look just a little bit like a squatty and hugely muscular camel.
This is an important meat breed in the United States and various other places around the world because it’s remarkably heat tolerant compared to other cows.
It also doesn’t suffer nearly as much from flystrike and other insects thanks to its extra tough skin.
Also notable is the fact that this is a particularly long lived and incredibly robust species, with many cows clearing 18 years of age.
The smallest of the huge cows on our list, even a remarkable American Brahman will rarely weigh more than 2,200 pounds.
An Austrian breed, and another triple-purpose cow intended for the production of milk, meat and use as a work animal on farms or over the road, this unique and handsome cattle shares much of ancestry with various German breeds.
It’s notable for its beautiful white and chestnut coloring, and also for its large size and height.
Another small one, at least small by the standards of our list here, bulls typically grow no larger than 2,200 pounds, while cows max out at around 1,350.
Sadly, this is a heritage breed that might not be with us too many more decades because the worldwide population has been decreasing slowly but steadily over time, though there are still tens of thousands left in the world.
A fascinating historical breed, the Glan originally comes from the Rhineland region of Germany.
What is most fascinating is that the historical purpose and lineage of these cows has survived in historical record, going all the way back to the mid-18th century where they’re breeding was initiated using imported Swiss cattle to improve the quality of local cows in the region.
Historically used as a dual-purpose breed, today their purpose is pretty much on beef alone although they remain important scientific specimens.
Perhaps most noteworthy, this breed was once thought to be completely extinct or nearly so until a chance discovery in 1985 revealed four living purebreds. Intensive scientific effort has brought the breed back from the brink.
Although not nearly as huge as some other breeds on this list, these are still some seriously big cows, with bulls weighing in at about 2,600 lb and standing nearly 5 feet tall at the shoulder. Females are, as expected, a little bit shorter and significantly lighter.
Known by many names, including Vorderwalder and Wald Cattle, the Vorderwald is another German breed that originated in the Black Forest region.
Long-limbed, strong and highly adapt on uneven or broken surfaces, these huge heifers are highly adapted to the mountainous terrain upon which they graze.
Far from the largest cows on this list, they are still quite huge, and bulls will max out at just a little over 2,300 pounds.
Cows are significantly lighter than bulls, though still quite stocky and strong, tipping the scales at a relatively petite 1425 pounds at most.
Unfortunately, the Vorderwald is in decline, and around the turn of the 21st century, there were slightly less than 5,000 females confirmed to be in a domestic setting.
The last breed on our list, and I think it’s only fitting to close out with yet another massive French cow.
The Normande, if the name didn’t tip you off, comes from the Normandy region of France, famous for many things but probably most known to the West for the D-Day invasion.
Normande is an important dual-use breed today, with highly flavorful and well-marbled meat but particularly rich and delectable milk that is integral to the production of various French cheeses that are considered delicacies.
Falling somewhere in the middle of our list, bulls usually weigh around 2,300 to 2,400 lb, while females are only somewhat smaller but still hefty 1,700 pounds. Both males and females stand around 5 feet tall at the withers or a little bit shorter.
What is the Biggest Cow that has Ever Lived?
If you want to go by modern domestic cows, the aforementioned Italian monster, the Chianina, typically holds the record of biggest cow that yet lives.
These cows are, truly, huge in every sense of the word, concerning both weight and height. Some Charolais do grow heavier, but not as often compared to the consistently immense Chianina.
Historically, most of our modern domestic cows had a wild ancestor, now extinct, called the Aurochs.
These truly humongous animals stood at least 6 feet tall at the shoulder, and were extremely athletic compared to the relatively sluggish domestic breeds we have today.
So, while they weren’t necessarily the heaviest, considering they still weighed about 3,300 pounds, we can safely say these were the largest and most impressive cows that ever lived- at least, the ones we know about so far!
But the very heaviest cow, ever, is a bull named Fetard, a Rouge des Pres (Maine-Anjou) that hulked out to an utterly flabbergasting 4,299 pounds!
Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.