Angus cattle are hornless, hardy, strong, and adaptable, making them an ideal cattle breed for cattlemen across the country. Ranchers in Scotland during the 1800s must have thought so too. The counties of Aberdeen, Kincardine, Banff, and Angus are located in the northeastern area of Scotland. The county of Angus was especially known for their quality production of animal feed, grain crops, and potatoes. Within Angus County was a shire called Strathmore. This area was known as one of the finest valleys in northeast Scotland and has been credited in the historical origins of the Aberdeen-Angus breed of cattle.
The gentleman credited as the founder of Angus cattle is Hugh Watson of Keillor. He resided in Strathmore in the county of Angus and was the proud descendant of a father and grandfather who bought and bred Aberdeen-Angus during the 1700s and 1800s. When Hugh Watson came of age 19 in the year 1808, he became a resident at Keillor. At that time, he began a cattle buying and breeding business for himself. His father graciously gave him six of his top quality and blackest cows, along with one bull. Hugh Watson had an eye for what type of cattle would help him achieve the characteristics of the Angus breed he hoped to achieve, so he purchased 10 more heifers and another bull from Scottish cattle markets. Heifers during this time period were characteristically mottled in color, but the bulls Watson had were solid black. He decided that black was the color he wanted in his herd and began breeding accordingly.
Although Hugh Watson owned several Black Angus cattle, most of the Angus cattle for sale today can be traced back to a bull and a cow on Watson’s ranch. The bull’s name was Old Jock (126) and the cow's name was Old Granny (125). It is recorded that Old Granny lived 35 good years before she was struck by lightning and died. However, between Old Jock and Old Granny, 29 calves were produced!
Hugh Watson is credited as a leader in cattle breeding in his day. He was unusual in that he showed his cattle more than other cattlemen and breeders of his day who raised Angus cattle for sale. During his lifetime, he won over 500 prizes for his Angus cattle and increased awareness and appreciation for black Angus cattle as far as the British Isles.
Other contributors to the Angus breed include men by the names of Lord Panmure, William Fullerton, and Robert Walker. These men also raised and bred Angus cattle during the 1800s. Mr. William McCombie of Tillyfour (Scotland) is credited in historical writings with the furtherance of the Aberdeen-Angus breed of cattle.