Why buy a Dexter cow? Dexters are an amazingly versatile cattle breed. They can live in almost any climate, they produce excellent milk as well as meat and they have a fit in both large cattle operations and the small farm. The real question is: Why not buy a Dexter cow!


Dexters originally come from south-western Ireland, and are likely the decedents of indigenous highland cattle.

While not much is known about their very early history, it is thought that freehold farmers initially domesticated them in the early-1800s, and maybe as far back as the mid-1700s. While other cattle breeds struggled with the area’s rough climate and less than ideal grazing conditions, the little Dexters survived and thrived, producing high quantities of milk and excellent beef.

The late 1800s saw the Dexter travel to England and beyond – the first arrivals in North America are believed to have come before 1900, and they were firmly established on this continent by the early 1900s.
Today, Dexters are classified as a rare breed and are bred in countries the world over and are now bred on almost every continent.

Dexter Characteristics

Dexters are the smallest of all cattle breeds. A full grown animal is only 38 to 46 inches tall – about waist-high on an adult human – and cows can weigh up to 750 pounds, while a bull can get to 1,000 pounds. But even though they’re small, they deliver in a big way.

  • Docile. Dexters are very docile animals, making them easy to handle and train. Their size also makes them ideal for younger 4-H members.
  • Hardy. Dexters thrive in all climates, from Australia to Norway, from Canada to South Africa, and can even do well in areas with poorer soil and grazing conditions.
  • Thrifty. Dexters need about half the space and the feed as a larger breed and are very efficient at converting feed into milk or beef. (To see beef comparisons, go to the Olds College Steer A Year site and click on “Breed Reports”.)
  • Easy calvers. Dexter heifers mature young, have an excellent maternal instinct and calves are usually born quickly and easily without human intervention. They are also known for their longevity.
  • Dual-purpose. Dexters are known for producing excellent milk and meat products.

Milk and Beef

Rich milk. Dexters produce excellent milk, both in quality and quantity. Easily digestible, Dexter milk is 4% butterfat (comparable to Jersey milk) and is recommended for babies and people with digestive problems. A healthy Dexter cow can produce an average of two to three gallons of milk a day.

Top grade meat. Dexters are known for their consistently high meat quality. Typically grading Canada AA or AAA, Dexter beef is naturally lean, juicy and tender. The smaller animal means smaller cuts, and Dexters have a high dress-out percentage.