Wagyu is a breed of cattle which hails from Japan and is renowned for its genetic predisposition to produce intensely marbled and tender beef. This definition, however, is only scratching the surface. Under the umbrella of the Wagyu cattle breed are four strains of Wagyu cattle:

Japanese Black

The Japanese Black was primarily used as the “workhorse” prior to the turn of the 20th Century. This breed was improved during the Meiji Era through crossbreeding with foreign breeds, and was certified as indigenous Japanese beef cattle in 1944. It is raised in most Prefectures of Japan, and more than 90% of Wagyu raised and fattened in Japan is of this breed. Fine strips of fat are found even in its lean meat (known as marbling). The flavor of the fat is exquisite, with a buttery, tender texture that dissolves in one’s mouth. Slaughter age is around 28-30month with an average Japanese grade of BMS 5.6

Japanese Brown (Referred to as Japanese Red outside Japan)

Also known as “Akaushi (Aka =red ushi =cattle),” the Japanese Brown is raised primarily in Kumamoto and Kochi Prefectures. The Kumamoto line is the most common with several hundred thousand in existence. The Kochi line has less than two thousand and can be distinguish by the dark points on its nose and feet. This breed was improved by crossbreeding Simmental with Hanwoo(Korean Red),

Japanese Shorthorn

This rare breed of Wagyu makes up less than 1% of all cattle in Japan and found only in Japan. They have a reddish brown coat and, per their name, small horns. Unlike Japanese Black, who are known for their rich marbling, Japanese Shorthorns have a high lean meat content with a savory flavor.

Japanese Polled (無角和種 Mukaku Washu)

The Japanese Polled was produced through crossbreeding of Aberdeen Angus imported from Scotland with the indigenous Japanese Black in 1920. It was further improved thereafter, and was certified as indigenous Japanese beef cattle in 1944. Its characteristics include its high lean meat content and distinctive Wagyu taste. It contains a high percentage of amino acid and has a rich chewy, meaty flavor.

Of these four strains, only Japanese Black and Japanese Brown are found outside of Japan. Within the Black Wagyu breed, there are three primary strains of cattle, Tajima, Shimane, and Kedaka, each with its own unique characteristics.

Japanese Black

These entirely black cattle are the most popular breed of Wagyu. They are raised throughout Japan, accounting for over 90% of the country’s cattle. Japanese Black have the strongest genetic predisposition to the quality Wagyu is renowned for – intense marbling.

Tajima – also referred to as Tajiri

Tajima are the marbling Wagyu. Even within the Japanese Black breed, this specific bloodline is the one known best to produce the highest percentage and best quality marbling. They are generally smaller framed, have slower growth rates, and expected to yield superior meat.

Shimane – also referred to as Fujiyoshi

Originating from the Shimane Prefecture of Japan, these cattle are known for large frames, medium growth, very strong maternal capabilities, and average meat quality. Their offspring tend to exhibit a large body size, however their marbling is generally less refined than Tajima.

Kedaka – also referred to as Tottori

The Kedaka line originates from the Tottori Prefecture of Japan and, similar to Shimane, are known for their larger frames but with a higher meat quality. They also tend to have a good growth rate and high levels of fertility.



Key Attributes

Tajima (Tajiri)

  • Highest marbling line
  • Finely marbled beef
  • Smaller frame
  • Low birth weight
  • Lower growth rates
  • Good temperament

Fujiyoshi (Shimane)

  • Well-balanced cattle
  • Good growth rates
  • Good meat quality
  • Quiet temperament
  • Strong maternal ability in dams
  • Good fertility rates

Kedaka (Tottori)

  • Good growth
  • Larger frame type
  • Good topline
  • Overall balance
  • Fine, loose skin

These Japanese Black bloodlines can be crossbred to impart diversity into herds. For example, breeding Tajima (or high Tajima bulls) with Kedaka or Shimane cows, has the potential to produce offspring that have the dense, delicate marbling of a Tajima with the larger size, faster growth rates, and stronger maternal instincts of a Kedaka or Shimane. In fact, Kedaka are often considered to play a critical role in Japanese Fullblood Wagyu production.

Crossbreeding Tajima from the Hyogo Prefecture with other Japanese Black bloodlines is still avoided by some, however, if efforts to maintain the purity of bloodlines. An example of this is with Kobe beef, which must be pure Tajima.