The Simmental is among the oldest and most widely distributed of all breeds of cattle in the world. Although the first official herdbook was established in the Swiss Canton of Berne in 1806, there is evidence of large, productive "red and white" cattle being found much earlier in ecclesiastical and secular property records of Western Switzerland.
Those 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 (draft) animals." They were known for their gentle nature, impressive stature and excellent dairy qualities.
As early as 1785, the Swiss Parliament limited exports because of a shortage of cattle to meet their own needs. The Swiss "Red and White Spotted Simmental Cattle Association" was formed in 1890.
Since its origin in Switzerland, the breed has spread to all six continents. Total numbers are estimated between 40 and 60 million Simmental cattle worldwide, with more than half in Europe. The worldwide spread was gradual until the late 1960s.
Records show that a few animals were exported to Italy as early as the 1400s. 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 cattle into the Western Hemisphere in 1897, with Brazil following in 1918 and Argentina in