The Brown Swiss is probably the oldest of all dairy breeds, with bone remnants found in the Alpine regions of Europe, dating back to 4000BC.
Records of the Benedictine monks of the Einsiedeln Monastery, breeding these familiar brown cows date back more than 1000 years.
Traditionally the breed was limited to the Alpine regions of central Europe, with the largest numbers found in Switzerland.
With the development of modern transport this unique breed became more well-known.
Over the last 150 years the breed has been established in more than 60 countries.
Today it is internationally the second largest of all dairy breeds, with more than 8 million registered and more than 14 million animals in total.
The first animals where imported into South Africa from the U.S.A. in 1907 by Louis van Wyk and later he imported some more from Switzerland.
Since then the breed has developed and established itself as one of the four largest dairy breeds in South Africa.
The Brown Swiss, as with the most early European breeds, originated as a dual purpose breed, producing meat and high quality milk for their owners.
The milk was used for drinking purposes and the production of cheese, which formed and still forms a large part of their owners diet.
With the advent of commercial farming practices the need for more milk production resulted in the development of a more dairy animal.
This has been achieved by selection for the more functional dairy characteristics.
Today we find in most parts of the world that two breeds have developed from the original Brown Swiss:
Firstly the more dairy breed with drier bone structure, less muscling and better udder qualities known as Brown Swiss
or Dairy Swiss. Secondarily the more muscled, heavier boned beef breed commonly referred to as Braunvieh.
In Switzerland and Europe they still have a smaller dual-purpose population referred to as “original Braunvieh”
The international tendency has been more towards the dairy breed.
In South Africa with its diverse climate and vegetation there are areas which are predominantly more inclined towards
beef production, here the South African Braunvieh has developed primarily into a beef breed.
It was therefore decided in 1974 to create two separate herd books for the two different types.
The dairy type was then named the Dairy Brown Swiss.
In 1995 the Department of Agriculture, recognised the SA Dairy Swiss as a separate breed in terms of the
Livestock Improvement Act.