Purebred Dexter Cattle Association Breed Standard

Purebred Dexter Cattle Association

A dual-purpose animal is bred to serve two functions: milk and beef. The Dexter is to be compactly built, shorter in length than that of a true dairy breed but thicker in the thighs, hips, loin, and shoulders. Its disposition should be easy to handle and docile asits main purpose is to be a family cow. It should not be overly large and tall,or excessively small. 


Balance: The size of bone, depth and fullness of all parts, low-setness, and shortness of leg and neck should reveal a consistently uniform harmony throughout. A balanced animal reveals equality in all parts. The animal shouldappear smoothly blended in such proportions as to give even and uniform appearance.


Quality: Indicated by smooth, neat,clean-cut features throughout which contribute to the beauty and general ability of the animal to economically perform the function of production. Neat joints, general refined condition of bone, a pliable softness to the hair and hide, a clean-cut appearance of the head and smoothness of body lines and finish are necessary attributes.


Style: Associated with harmonious development in all body characteristics. It involves the general beauty and the degree of grace, which it displays while moving or at rest. Attractive, graceful carriage is desired. The animal should have enough nervous response versus stability to keep muscles in proper tone, hold the body together, and impress his or her true value. Style is often responsible for an animal catching the eye of a judge or prospective buyer and selling at a premium.


Constitution: Characteristics that determine the feeding ability, reproductive capacity, health, vigor and longevity: Broad mouth and large nostrils; wide and deep chest capacity, as determined by the length and fullness of the fore ribs and width of chest floor; deep heart girth and well-sprung ribs encase the diaphragm, heart and lungs, which are vital to longevity and reproductiveability.


Head: Medium in length, clean-cut, and tapering down into a broad muzzle that is strong and powerful with wide, open nostrils; lean, strong jaw with teeth matching pad correctly, as to avoid an over or under bite. Eyes: full, bright and lively, large and alert. Forehead: wide between the eyes, bridge of nose straight. Ears: relative to size of head, neatly placed and alertly carried. A desirable head displays breed character, refinement without frailty, desirable proportions, strength with good muscling of the lower jaw, combined with alertness and interest in the surroundings.


Neck: Blends smoothly into shoulders and brisket. Clean throat and dewlap without excessive loose flesh or surplus skin underneath


Shoulders: Set smoothly against chest wall and withers with an adequate cover of flesh. Winged shoulder is the term used to describe the condition caused by the failure of the connective tissues to hold the shoulder blade firmly to the rib structure. The point of the shoulder will be pulled away from the ribs. Winged shoulderis undesirable.

Brisket and Chest: Deep and wide between the front legs, neat and trim with little dewlap.

Withers: Sharpness of withers and thickness at the top of the shoulders coincides with condition. A cow in heavy flow of milk and relatively thin flesh will usually be sharp at the withers, whereas the same cow in high condition just prior to calving may show a thickness of 5 – 6 inches (or possibly more) at this region 


Ribs: Barrel deep and strongly supported with ribs wide apart, well sprung, and covered with firm flesh. Little space between the ribs and hips. Depth and width tending to increase toward rear of barrel. Heart Girth: large and deep, filled both out and down; contributing its part in a straight bottom line and side line. Foreribs: should be long and well sprung with a wide chest floor between front legs and fullness at the point of elbow. 


Back: The topline should bestrong and straight from withers to end of tail head with adequate flesh. The topline is determined by the position and strength of the backbone (vertebral column). Much of the roughness or lack of symmetry and smoothness in an animal is due to irregularity of the spinal column. This roughness may or may not impair the function of the animal, but it does reduce eye appeal and thus reduces the value of registered, purebred animals.


Loin: Broad, deep, thick strong, smoothly fleshed nearly at maturity. A young animal may roach (curve upward) at the loin but will level out at maturity. This is only permissible at the loin; if the back roaches midway, the prospect for improvement is not favorable.


Hips: Wide, approximately level laterally with the back, with adequate flesh. Females will tend to be more prominent in the hips than males.


Pin Bones: Wide apart and slightly lower than hip; contributing to calving ease.


Rump: Long and wide, it should carry out the same width that prevails on the loin and ribs. Straight, level from loin and square at the tail head. Pelvic bone shape, slope from hook to pin, and the distance between hook and pin all contribute to rump conformation. Sloping, droopy or narrow are not ideal. A high tail head detracts from the overall appearance of the rump


Flank: Deep and smooth, allowing for capacity.


Thigh: Wide apart when viewed from the rear, providing sufficient room for udder and its attachments. Its fullness should carry well down to the hock


Legs: Legs straight, set in all four corners of theanimal,wide apart; clean-cut and strong. Toes pointed forward. Bones of the legs must be firm and dense, pasterns relatively straight, of medium length, strong and springy. Hocks cleanly molded with an adequate amount of bend. Feet short, balanced, well rounded with deep heel and level sole. Hind legs nearly perpendicular from hock to pastern. When viewed from behind, legs set wide apart and straight. Tendons well defined. Poor bone quality, puffy joints, weak pasterns, and long toes with under-slung heels are extremelyundesirable.


Udder: Long along the underline, wide,and of moderate depth with a smooth floor. Full and balanced in all four quarters of even symmetry. Extending well forward and strongly attached. Rear attachment high and wide. Teats placed squarely and evenly in all four corners and are a uniform, convenient size. Cylindrical in shape, free from obstructions, well apart and plumb. Texture soft, pliable and elastic. Well collapsed after milking. May not show excessive veination on either or both, udder and body.


Scrotum and Sheath: Testicles balanced and symmetrical. Rudimentary teats set wide apart, squarely placed in front of scrotum. Sheath: clean-cut to belly without extra sagging skin.


Tail: Fine, hanging straight. Tail head level and neatly set between pin bones


Color: Black, red, or dun. White is permissible if confined to the rear part of the underline behind the navel. It is often found on the udder or in the tail switch. White on the scrotum, or forward of the navel is unfavorable. Black has a black or “smutty” nose, teats and hooves. Red has various shades of pink, or a black “smutty” nose and teats, hooves are brown or black. Dun has a tan colored nose and teats, and brown hooves. Teats may be pink on any udder that is white. Both red and dun coat colors range in several shades.


Size: Frame score should be 1 (One) or below for both males and females. Cattle must be of diminutive stature compared to that of a standard breed but still capable of producing a carcass of reasonable market value, and a reasonable quantity and quality of milk production. They should be of proper size for their age and sex. An animal should be sufficiently developed for his or her age. They should have proper form and equivalent body proportions. 


Horns: Inclining up and forwards on females, more forward on males, moderately small at base, medium in length, tapering towards black tips, (brown tips in red or dun animals). They should contribute to the attractiveness of the head by being neat, symmetrical, and properly placed. Dehorned animals are allowed without penalty.


Polled: Polled animals are characterized by a well-defined poll.

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Comment by Gwendolyn Listerman on September 17, 2012 at 9:28pm

Thank you for this information it lets me know what to look for as this is my first foray into the cattle world, I know more about horses and chickens but armed with this I am on my way to learning about how to select an excellent animal. I think that more folks like me are looking to have a homestead, I for one have not been brought up on a farm and most of this is unfamiliar I would like to keep my mistakes at a minimum and I know there are a lot of folks that have information to share Thank you for sharing I greatly appreciate it. I will check back to see more! Gwendolyn future homesteader


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