Herefords came to the United States in 1817 when the great statesman Henry Clay of Kentucky made the first importation -- a bull and two females. These cattle and their offspring attracted considerable attention, but they were eventually absorbed by the local cattle population and disappeared from permanent identity.
The first breeding herd in America is considered to be one established in 1840 by William H. Sotham and Erastus Corning of Albany, New York, and for practical purposes Herefords in the United States date from the Sotham-Corning beginning. The more densely populated eastern area of the United States, including herds in New England, was the early home of Herefords and from there they fanned out to the South and West as the population expanded and the demand for beef increased.
Records of the New York State Fair reveal that 11 Herefords were exhibited there in 1844 and were highly praised. Several breeders were active in exhibiting at fairs and exhibitions in the East and Midwest where the Herefords met with great success. Perhaps the greatest early interest in the breed came from the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia where T. L. Miller was awarded a medal for the first-prize herd.
HEREFORDS - THE GREAT IMPROVER
With the end of the Civil War and the coming of the American Industrial Revolution, the westward expansion continued and so did America's appetite for beef. Western ranching developed from free land and local longhorned cattle originally brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquerors and allowed to drift northward into what is now America's great southwestern cattle country. These cattle were tough and had the bred-in ability to survive, a trait that enabled their being driven to railhead shipping points and then transported by rail to slaughter at eastern markets. It was on such cattle that Herefords proved the great improver. They survived the rough ranching conditions and improved beef quality in the process. Demand for Hereford bulls boomed.