Brown Swiss Cow

Category: Farm

Brown Swiss cattle are possibly the most popular of all dairy cattle in the world. Despite the name, they can be a variety of colors, from grey or white, tan, and, yes, brown. The first Brown Swiss Bull imported into the United States was a one year old named William Tell. Almost all importation stopped after a hoof and mouth disease scare in Europe in the early 20th century, meaning that all Brown Swiss in the United States are descended from less than two hundred imports.

Brown Swiss Cow

Brown Swiss Cow

Brown Swiss Bull

Brown Swiss Bull

Brown Swiss Calf

Brown Swiss Calf

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Artiodactyla

Family - Bovidae

Genus – Bos

Species - B. taurus

Common Names – Brown Swiss Cow, Brown Schwyzer, Schwyzer


Bulls often weigh over two thousand pounds, making them considerably heavier than the cows. They can tolerate temperature fluctuations very well and tend to be very hardy and capable animals. Their colors stay in the brown or grey range and they have large, somewhat floppy ears which often endears them to people. They also have excellent milk production and the milk has what is considered to be an ideal fat to protein content for cheese making. Their hardiness, along with the milk production and quality, makes them valuable farm animals.


Like most cattle breeds, Brown Swiss need little help from humans. Breed books are kept so that improvements can be made on the breeding stock and those records have now been in existence for well over a century in the United States and other countries.


Brown Swiss are docile and they are often kept as pets or used as show animals due to their easy going nature. Bulls, however, should always be treated with care as they are powerful animals with an instinct to protect. In the mountainous area where the breed originated, they needed to be capable of handling extremes in temperature and elevation, as well as fluctuations in the available food supply.


The Brown Swiss cow may have originated in Switzerland as long ago as 4000BC, making it possibly the oldest dairy breed in existence. However, there are no records kept for the breed before the 19th century, making it impossible to know the breeding history. There is good reason to believe that the original strain was mixed with larger, more robust species, specifically the Pinzgaur from Austria. The American Brown Swiss cow descended from only 25 bulls and 140 females imported from Switzerland between 1860-1906. After 1906, only three cows were imported due to a fear of hoof and mouth disease.

Present Status

Brown Swiss cattle are one of the most popular dairy breeds, especially in the United States, Russia, Germany, and Italy. Oddly the breed is not as popular in its namesake country.


  1. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)

  2. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

  3. Brown Swiss Association

  4. The Brown Swiss Cattle Society

  5. Department of Animal Science - Oklahoma State University