The History of Wagyu

The topography in Japan is suitable for grain growing. Native cattle, Wagyu were indispensable for cultivating paddy fields – they were farm workers and very valuable property. Cattle were not only needed for farming, but also for forestry, transportation and in the grain industry.

From 1635 Japan had a policy of cultural and economic isolation enforced by its military ruler the Shogun. This policy led to over 200 years of genetic isolation for Wagyu.

After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the Shogun was forced to abdicate and the Japanese emperor returned to power, Japan began a process of westernisation, modernization and industrialization. The new government promoted the eating of farm animals and drinking of milk.

To support these changes the government decided to import live animals for breeding in 1868. By 1887 about 2,600 head of cattle had been imported this resulted in crossbreeding of Wagyu and the characteristic Wagyu traits were being lost, in 1910 the breed was closed to control the situation.

In 1975 four full blood Wagyu entered America the progeny of these animals are only considered ‘purebred’ because detailed records of the breeding were not kept. The original Wagyu in Australia were all purebred being offspring from this small gene pool, they arrived in Australia between 1988-1990.

From 1992 to 1996 Japan allowed approximately 40 live animals and some embryos and semen to be brought into Australia and these form the basis of the Australian herd today.