History of Japanese Black Wagyu from Japan
Wagyu were originally draught animals used in cultivating rice paddies so they were selected for physical endurance. Over centuries this natural selection process favored animals with more intra muscular fat cells – marbling – which provided a readily available energy source to complete the task.
Definition of Wagyu: ‘Wa’ simply means Japanese style and ‘gyu’ means cattle.
Japanese Wagyu derived from native Asian cattle which were infused with British and European breeds in the late 1800’s. Although the breed was closed to outside bloodlines in 1910, regional isolation has produced a number of different lines with varying conformations.
Tajima – originating from the Hyogo prefecture. These black cattle were used to pull carts and ploughs so they developed larger forequarters and lighter hindquarters. They are generally smaller-framed with slower growth rates but produce excellent meat quality with large eye muscle and superior marbling. They are thought to be ideal for the production of F1 cattle for slaughter. The Tajima bloodlines are generally regarded as producing the best quality meat in all of Japan.
Kedaka or Tottori – These were pack animals in the grain industry so they are larger animals with straight, strong backlines and generally good growth rates but sometimes variable meat quality.
Fujiyoshi or Shimane – These are medium framed cattle with average growth rate and good quality meat and are well suited to cross with Angus.
The Wagyu population outside Japan is derived from fewer than 200 exports to USA that arrived between 1993 and 1997 after the first 2 arrivals in 1976.
Four bulls were sent from Japan by Morris Whitney in 1976. Colorado University took semen collections then they were bought by Wagyu Breeders Inc. There were no Wagyu females in America so the original two Japanese BlackWagyu (Mazda from Tottori and Mt Fuji from Hyogo) and two Wagyu Red bulls (Rueshaw and Judo from Kumamoto) were joined to Angus, Holstein, Hereford and Brangus cows in Texas.
The Mannett Group (later to become World K’s) imported four Black Wagyu females: Suzutani and Rikitani – both 100% Tajima and Okutani – 75% Tajima and 25% Shimane and two bulls Michifuku – 94% Tajima and Haruki 2 – 56% Tajima and 19% Shimane. They were flown out in July 1993. The first Full bloods to be born in June 1994 outside Japan were Rikihari in Canada, then Beijiro and Suzutani followed in USA. Later in the year the first live exports were transported from USA to Wally Rae in Australia.
Japanese Venture Partners imported three black bulls Kikuyasu, Fukutsuru, Yasutanisakura and ten black females Chisahime 662, Chiyofuku 992, Fukutomi 990, Kikuhana 298, Shigehime 208, Tokuhime 486, Yasufuji 1/4, Yoshifuku 2 and Yuriko 1.
Mr Shogo Takeda exported 35 black females, many in calf, and five black bulls Itomichi 1/2, Kikuhana, Itohana 2, Kinto and Terutani in 1994. There are numerous females that have been registered with births during this period.
Mannett imported 7 black females Taguchi 9, Nakahana 5, Mitsutaka, Okuito 9, Hanateru 9, Rabito and Hisako with one black bull Yasufuku Jr in October 1998. Calves were Taguchifuku, Kotomichan and Kousyun.
Chris Walker of Westholme imported 25 black females and three black males – Hirashigetayasu “001” (Kedaka), Itomoritaka “002” (Fujiyoshi) and Kitateruyasu Doi “003” (Tajima) to USA from ET Japan Company in Hokkaidoo in 1997. The following year another 59 females arrived together with semen from three black bulls Shigefuku, Dai 6 Seizan and Kitatsurukiku Doi. The bulls had semen drawn and were slaughtered after the outbreak of BSE in Japan but the females were exported to Australia. This consignment was diverse with 44 Shimane and 28 Kedaka with 12 Tajima so injected milk and size with marbling. Dams which bred in Australia include: Hatsuko, Itoreiko, Kazuaki, Kitahikari 97/1, Kitakazu, Kitaokumi, Kitasakaedoi, Kitasekitori, Kitatizuru 2, Kunikiku 96, Masako, Masatoshi 2, Sakaehikari, Sekinakada 22, Sekiyuhou, Takakuni, Takashigedoi, Yamafuji, Yamaketakafuji 3 and Yuriyuhoi.
Takeda imported 6 black bulls Kikutsuru Doi, Itoshigefuji, Itoshigenami, Mitsuhikokura, Kikuterushige, Itozuru Doi 151.
A Mishima bull (Kamui) – a native cattle breed from Mishima Island – was in this consignment. The indigenous cattle population on Mishima Island had been eliminated by Rinderpest disease in 1672. A few Japanese Black were transported over from mainland Japan to re-establish the herd, which has been in-bred for more than 25 generations. This genetic pool represents the traditional draught cattle of the 1700s so is distinct from Japanese Wagyu breeds of today. Mishima has high marbling but is smaller than Wagyu. Accordingly, “Kamui” (whose semen was imported by Takeda) was registered as a “base” animal (B115 with date of birth 28th August, 1991). Kamui progeny out of registered Fullblood dams are registered as Wagyu percentage (50% Wagyu) by the American Wagyu Association.
The Takeda herd in USA was subsequently sold to Mr Gary Yamamoto in Canada.
World K’s exported sixteen Wagyu bulls and three Wagyu heifers from USA to their Australian operation in October 2002.
Tabled are the cattle that were imported or born from Japanese parents: