The Simmental is among the oldest and most widely distributed of all breeds of cattle in the world.
Although the first herd book was established in the Swiss Canton of Berne in 1806, there is evidence of large, productive red and white cattle found much earlier in ecclesiastical and secular property records of Western Switzerland.
These red and white animals were highly sought because of their "rapid growth development; outstanding production of milk, butter, and cheese; and for their use as draught animals." they were known for their imposing stature and excellent dairy qualities.
Since its origin in Switzerland, the breed has spread to all six continents. Total numbers are estimated between 40 and 60 million Simmental cattle, world-wide. More than half of these are in Europe. The spread was gradual until the late 1960s.
During the 19th century, Simmental were distributed through most of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Russia, ultimately reaching South Africa in 1895. Guatemala imported the first Simmental into the Western Hemisphere in 1897, with Brazil following suite in 1918 and Argentina in 1922.
The breed made its most recent appearance in North America when a Canadian, named Travers Smith, imported the famed bull "Parisien" from France in 1967.
Semen was introduced into the United States that same year, with the first half-blood Simmental calf born in February of 1968.
The American Simmental Association was formed in October of 1968.
Simmental spread to Great Britain, Ireland, and Norway in 1970 and to Sweden and other Northern European countries shortly thereafter.
The amazing growth of Simmental cattle in North America is really a reflection of what has already occurred in most agricultural countries of the world. Presently, the American Simmental Association registered about 80,000 cattle annually into the Simmental and Simbrah herdbooks. The Association ranks among the top four of the U.S. beef breed associations in annual registrations.