The Normande originated in Normandy, France from cattle brought to the country by Viking conquerors in the 9 th and 10 th centuries.  For over a thousand years these cattle evolved into a dual purpose breed to meet the milk and meat needs of the residents of northwestern France.  The Normande breed resulted from cross-breeding of local dairy breeds including the Augeronne, the Cauchoise and the Cotentine (all now extinct) with animals of the Durham breed (later known as the Shorthorn), which were imported from England.  The French population of the Alderney breed was also absorbed into the Normande.

The Normande is a significant breed in France.  The Normande has been exported to many countries and is present on all continents.  Exports to South America began in 1877.  Colombia has the largest population of Normande cattle outside of France.  In Brazil, where the Normande was first imported in 1923, it has been cross-bred with Zebuine cattle to create a hybrid, the Normanzu.

The present herd book in France was started in 1883.  Though the breed was decimated by the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, the breed has been able to rebound and remains still a highly regarded breed in France.

While the Normande has always been used for dairy, it has always presented strong dual-purpose qualities.  In France, the Normande has always been known for its unsurpassed marbling quality, flavor and tenderness, and regularly wins blind tests for its taste.  A special label for Normande meat enjoys great popularity in major supermarkets and also revered by some of the best restaurants in France.  In the US, Normande bulls have won growth tests at various test stations and carcasses have often ranked first at major beef shows.

Normande's have been exported world-wide, but have received their greatest acceptance in South America where they were introduced in the 1890's.  The cattle have thrived there as one of the world's best dual purpose breeds. Total numbers there now exceed 4 million purebreds plus countless Normande crossbreeds.  Colombia alone has 1.6 million purebreds with the rest mainly in Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay.  They are a highly adaptable and hardy breed and have done well in beef operations in the Andes Mountains at elevations up to 13,000 feet.  The Normande cow with her sound feet and legs can travel great distances over rough terrain to economically convert native roughages.

The best suited milk for cheese: the French cheese breed

The present role of the Normande breed in France is to provide rich milk for the cheese industry while maintaining their excellent carcass quality.  While the Normande's do not generally give the high pounds of milk compared to a Holstein, many cows produce more than 22,000 lbs and some reach 30,000 lbs.

The Normande shines in the fat and protein departments, with an average of 3.73 protein and 4.26 fat, this makes for a very high quality milk and most are also A2A2 Beta Casein, and BB Kappa Casein.    These characteristics of the Normande milk components make their milk one of the best for making cheese.

The levels of casein beta and kappa in the milk are known to improve the curdling quality of the milk for cheese manufacturing (speed and firmness of gel). In addition, Normande milk presents favorable calcium/phosphate ratio and casein miscella of small diameter, all of which result in yields of cheese 15 to 20 % higher depending on the type of fabrication/manufacture.

In France, the Normande is associated with the production of such famous cheeses as Camembert, Pont-Lévêque and Livarot.

Carcass yield and marbling are superior.  The Normande is the quintessential cow: unlike specialized breeds, it has preserved hardiness and breeding qualities, such as fertility, calving ease, feet and leg conformation, feed conversion and genetic diversity.  The Normande demonstrates that milk production can be accomplished without losing essential breeding qualities.

As today's dairy industry and market trends strongly favor and focus on cheese manufacturing, one can see the immediate benefit of having Normande milk in the tank.


The Normande is a red and white cow with occasional sometimes widespread areas of brown hair.  Typically, the brown hair has the look of tiger stripes, or brindled, interspersed with the red spots, and there is some degree of balance between the three different hues.  However, one color often dominates, and there is a different name for the dominance of each color. 

The representative Normande is red and white (with brown brindled), this is said to be “blond” others are “quail” - when the white dominates, “brindled” - predominantly brown and “trouted/mahogany” which is a multitude of brown spots on the skin underneath white hair.  Some bulls appear black but it is really brown hair, the Normande is homozygous red breed.

Normande’s are a medium frame size breed with most cows weighing 1,200 to 1,500 lbs. and bulls 2,000 to 2,400 lbs.  They possess excellent body depth and spring of rib while maintaining exceptional body length. The cattle are also very clean fronted and carry a strong top-line. 

Normande females reach sexual maturity early and have good fertility, mammary conformation, mothering ability and production longevity.  They have large pelvic areas and calve easily with calves showing excellent vigour and most birth weights in the 70 to 95 lb. range.

Ideal for dairy crossbreeding

  • The lifespan of Normande cattle is quite productive. They have good longevity, cutting down on herd replacement costs. They also reach sexual maturity at an early age and remain fertile for years after, allowing for more calves per cow.
  • Ultimate grazers that can be used for either dairy or beef production
  • Incredible feed converters
  • Rich milk for cheese production and good growth rate in calves
  • Ideal for dairy crossbreeding
  • Fertility
  • Calving Ease
  • Strength
  • High percentage yield at slaughter

From Maine to California and Wisconsin to Texas, dairy farmers are increasingly deciding to cross the top French Normande bulls with their dairy cows.  Beyond hybrid vigor, they hope to make up for the lost breeding qualities (especially fertility and strength) for such specialized breeds as Holstein and Jersey.  Conventional dairymen and grazers alike, all seek maximum heterosis effect.  Many of them intend to breed up to purebred, thus opting for a more functional, low maintenance cow. Studies made in France have shown that the F1 crosses tend to be above median average of the two breeds for milk but closer to the Normande for components.  Further studies are needed to confirm this observation.  But as inbreeding is becoming more of an issue for U.S. dairy breeds, there is great future for crossbreeding in the dairy industry. Because of its combination of strength, fertility and components, the Normande is well positioned to play a major role.

U.S. Normande Breeders Organization, L.L.C.
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