The aim of this study was to characterise the Polish Red cattle breed, the only existing native breed in Poland. The origin and conformation of this breed and its historical development, distribution and performance were described. Moreover, the attention was paid to the attempts to improve the breed milk performance by crossbreeding with Jersey, Danish Red and Angler and beef performance by crossbreeding with Black-and-White, Red-and-White, Simmental and beef bulls.
Before the Second World War the Polish Red held the rank of an international breed, and since the middle of the previous century had been found almost throughout Poland. In the 1950s it still constituted 22% of the whole cattle population in Poland. Indeed in 1954 the Polish Red cattle population amounted to over 1.5 million head. Currently, Polish Red cattle are in danger of extinction. Only 300 cows are included in the Program of Genetic Resources Conservation and scarcely several hundred embryos and semen doses are stored in the Semen Bank of the National Research Institute of Animal Production in Balice.
In 2001 the number of recorded Polish Red milking cows was 1 201. Their average performance amounted to 3 786 kg of milk with 4.26% of fat and 3.39% of protein. However, milk yield of the cows at the best farms exceeded 5 500 kg.