Breed History

Braunvieh in Australia Distribution | Some Physical Characteristics | Association Information | Swiss Pedigree Points System

European Origin

History of the Braunvieh breed of cattle goes back to the central European countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

These adjoining mountainous areas developed the Braunvieh as a pure breed for many centuries.
Their origin goes back to short horned cattle of neolithic marsh type sometimes referred to as the Auroch. Braunvieh could be regarded as one of the oldest pure breeds of cattle in the world. According to records made by monasteries and local government guilds Braunvieh have been kept homogenous for nearly 1000 years. The earliest records are found in stock lists and agricultural ordinances of the monastic foundations of Einsiedeln, Engelberg, Muri and St Gall, dating from the 9th and 10th centuries. The monasteries levied taxes from their vassals in the form of cattle and dairy products. However, the cattle were not only intended to provide sustenance for the monks, but began to be bartered for grain, salt and other necessaries. Consequently many documents survived from the 14th to 18th century which bear witness to a brisk trade in cattle by the founding cantons in Eastern Switzerland with neighboring countries. The period from 1750 to 1850 may be regarded as the heyday of the cattle trade with Northern Italy over the St Gotthard Pass. The earliest legal provisions governing the promotion of cattle breeding in the various cantons also date from this time. Distinctions were still being made between various local types of Braunvieh, such as Schwyzer, Einsiedler, Toggenburger, Walliser, Appenzeller and Haslitaler. Between 1869 and 1880 a number were exported to the USA. (with selection these became the dairy Brown Swiss)

Their characteristics in form and productivity established Braunvieh as an article much in demand for export and barter by the medieval alpine farmers of central Switzerland.

The name Braunvieh means ‘Brown cow’. In Switzerland it was formerly known as the ‘Schwyzer breed’ after the canton of Schwyz which was their most important breeding area. The comprehensive breed name was not adopted until 1880 when the Confederation introduced its first promotional measures. In 1887 the first Braunvieh breeding cooperative was founded and ten years later in 1897 the first 82 breeding cooperatives came together in the Swiss Braunvieh Breeders Association. From this time on, national bull markets were held every year. This led to lively trading between the various breeding areas, and thus to a unification of the breed.

Artificial Insemination was introduced in 1961.

The natural environment in the Swiss breeding areas vary greatly with approximately one third situated in the so-called Plateau or ‘Mittleland’ between the Jura and the Alps averaging an altitude of 650 to 2000 ft. The remaining district at 2000 to 6500 ft as pre-alpine and alpine region represents the actual breeding zone for Braunvieh. The summer pastures are situated between 3300 and 9000 ft with constantly changing weather conditions to adapt to.

Some physical characteristics of Braunvieh include moderate sized, well muscled cattle of quiet temperament. Cows have a mature weight of 550 to 750 kg and bulls from 950 to 1250 kg. Their colour is light grey to mid brown with bulls darker than females but with a distinctive white muzzle. Strong maternal traits place it high for milk production in comparison to other European breeds.

With a long background of selection Braunvieh have established production of meat and milk with high feed efficiency. This has become very evident in present day scientific comparisons and feedlot experience.


Other than its homelands of Germany, Austria, Itlay and Switzerland, Braunvieh have spread into all continents except the Poles. Extraordinary adaptability has put Braunvieh

in countries such as South Africa, India, Canada, Japan, Yugoslavia, Mexico, France, Russia and all climatic zones of North and South America. With over 7,000,000 Braunvieh in 60 countries there are now herdbook records in 42 countries.

Braunvieh in Australia

In 1972 when the import bans were lifted, many European breeds were introduced including Braunvieh. Breeding records since 1975 using an Up-grading program with Braunvieh semen over four crosses to Purebred resulted in the first Purebred born in 1984. The first live cattle entered in June 1989 from New Zealand, with Fullblood Swiss Braunvieh entering in April 1990. Subsequent importation of cattle and embryos from Denmark and Canada and semen and embryos from US and Switzerland have greatly expanded Braunvieh in Australia.

With Braunvieh becoming readily available, commercial cattle breeders are using them over black and grey cows in the south, and over Brahman in the north. Braunvieh crossed with Brahman is known as ‘Braunbra’. The Braunvieh muscle, feed efficiency and maternal traits have a positive benefit in all these different applications.

This history of Braunvieh was compiled for the ABA Inc from extracts of Swiss Braunvieh Zuchtverband, O Gruter and Dr W Engeler.


Swiss Pedigree Points System

For Braunvieh breeders that are researching breeding families and bull or cow pedigrees, there is a bewildering lot of numbers scattered across various pedigrees. Although the Swiss BraunviehZuchtverband has changed the Points assessment method to a Linear based system, there are still many pedigrees about showing the old method.

What does it all mean?

In a simplified form and allowing for some translation variations, the following is provided as a guide to the old ‘Points on the Pedigree’. It was a method of visual assessment attributed to Dir Willi Engeler, and implemented by Inspection from at least two official judges.

Put simply, any animal can be viewed on the components of :-

Body, Legs, Udder, Teats.

It does seem an over simplification but by the example laid out it may become useful.

The pedigree may show, eg: P 5-4 3-5 which refers to this –

P - meaning points

5 - being points for Body, Frame size and weight, with 5 points being the maximum for each of these categories.

4 - being points for Legs, soundness of Feet and Legs, max 5.

3 - being points for the Udder, on shape, development and suspension

(3 points is average in that factor)

5 - being for Teats, on shape, placement, attachment or extranumeries

( 5 points is the maximum for any category)

For any cow or bull in the assessment system it must be inspected before two years of age by two inspectors. No animal is given maximum points on first inspection ie; 5-5 5-5, on the basis that as a junior the Udder and Teats are not fully displayed. Subsequent inspection may lift the animal to a
5-5 5-5 but that has to be by other inspectors and may be abbreviated to 10-10. For any animal to get such high points is exceptional, with perhaps only a few cows ( 5 or 10) achieving that each year. A ’10 – 10’ cow will have to produce above average in milk production as well. It is a Special score for animals that have reached the Elite level for type and milk production.

The points are totaled in one figure which appeared before or after the individual points. While technically possible, there has been no animal given 100 points as that would make it the perfect animal.

It is worth noting that for a bull to be eligible for use for Registerable progeny it must be inspected before use, and undergo annual inspection of progeny to remain in use.

For all Fullblood Swiss Braunvieh AI sires, they must all be plus rated for Milk production above average, with the index of 100 being for 6000 kg milk.

 Such symbols are included on pedigrees and seen as:-

L (in a D) – Lactation Durability.

F (in a square) – passed a Breeding Family inspection of all direct relatives.

L (in a square) - passed above average performance.

Z (in a square) - passed full inspection if sires progeny, Breeding family award.

* (star) - Fertility award, for regular rebreeding three consecutive years.

A cow may have acquired several of these and be represented by a hot horn brand stamped on the horn. As well as the other symbols by horn brand.

MBK – Milkability eg: 47 2.9 0.2 - is 47% foreudder index, 2.9 kg milk/min
0.2 kg is residual milk handstripped.

LP - Lactation Points, which is adjusted according to age and Alpine production zone.

Standard of 60 equates to 6000 kg milk.

ZW - Zuchtwert is estimated Breeding Value.

NZP – Nachzuchtprufung is progeny test adjusted milk 305 days.

That is a summary of the Swiss Points on the Pedigree system.

Although it is discontinued, the information is still about on various Pedigrees and can be very useful in working out strengths and weakness in a Swiss Braunvieh Pedigree.

As is always the case, checking of details on any pedigree is most important.

Name and Herdbook number is where it starts and finishes, but do be careful with Names of many cattle out of Europe. Due to the volume of cattle registered by one breeder, the breeder does not have his/her own Prefix, but uses the area name. So it is possible to have two animals of the same name and area name.

The only difference being the first part of the Herdbook number ie: the animals individual number.

EG; Aron 8719 Aron 11765-11 Aron 2 17934 – 21

Just to confuse you the Swiss recording system has recently reversed the two sets of numbers, showing the Area number then the individual number. Probably on the basis of computer locating.

Then there have been various bulls imported to US and Canada that were re-registered in new herdbooks some with new names and with errors in transcribing the pedigrees.



I suppose that applies to a lot of things. Andrew Rainsford.

Further references on the Internet at: (this Website)