The Charolais is a breed of taurine beef cattle from the Charolais area surrounding Charolles, in Burgundy, in eastern France. Charolais are raised for meat; they may be crossed with other breeds, including Angus and Hereford cattle.
The Charolais originated in west-central to southeastern France, in the old French provinces of Charolles and neighboring Nievre. The exact origins of the Charolais are lost to us but it must have been developed from cattle found in the area.
Legend has it that white cattle were first noticed in the region as early as 878 A.D., and by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were well and favorably known in French markets, especially at Lyon and Villefranche. Selection developed a white breed of cattle which, like other cattle of continental Europe, were used for draft, milk and meat.
Charolais are white or creamy white in color, but the skin carries appreciable pigmentation. The hair coat is usually short in summer but thickens and lengthens in cold weather. Charolais is a naturally horned beef animal. But through the breeding-up program, where naturally polled breeds were sometimes used as foundation animals, polled Charolais have emerged as an important part of the breed. Charolais cattle are large with mature bulls weighing from 2,000 to well over 2,500 pounds and cows weigh from 1,250 to over 2,000 pounds.
The Charolais is the second-most common cattle breed in France after the Holstein and the most common beef breed, ahead of theLimousin. France had 4.22 million head of Charolais cattle as of Dec. 31, 2014, including 1.56 million cows, declining 0.6% from a year earlier. The Charolais is a world breed: it is reported to DAD-IS by 68 countries, of which 37 report population data.