History of Mishima-Ushi

Mishima-ushi can best be described as the Original Native Japanese Cattle, with pedigree records dating back to 1739.

Mishima-ushi are today still bred on the small island of Mishima about 30Km around (7.8sq Km), located 50Km from Hagi-shi, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

It is believed that Mishima-Ushi may have come from China via the Korean peninsula before written records (more than 800 years ago). Along the travel, some went to Mishima Island where they have been kept in a closed environment, never being released. These cattle are called Mishima-ushi and became what’s known as the original Wagyu.

According to our research, in 1672, due to Gyueki (a type of infectious disease, maybe called Rinderpest), all cattle west of the line between Osaka and Maizuru, that include Kyusyu and Shikoku, died. This included Mishima-ushi.

However, in Takenotani in Okayama, in Nita in Shimane (both in the skirts of Chugoku Mountains), and in Takeno in Hyogo, a very small number of Mishima-ushi had survived due to the isolation of these villages.

After the extinction of animals on Mishima island, about 30 animals from Yamato (currently Nara) were transferred onto Mishima Island. The number of cattle and holder farms was recorded in 1739. Present Mishima-ushi are the offspring.

Takenotani and Nita – In both areas, iron sand had been produced and was ruled by ancient powerful families. Those times, average body height of Wagyu was 93cm for females and 110cm for males. While in Takenotani and Nita, 120cm for females and 148cm for males. In recent years, Fujiyoshi-line from Takenotani and Itozakura-line from Nita have been produced, and by the combination of both lines, the famous Dai 7 Itozakura was born.

Takeno – The survived herd from Gyueki in Hyogo were been fed in the mountains, where transportation is poor and near the Japan Sea. Their body size was very small and beef was very smooth and superfine marbling ( similar to Mishima-ushi). They produced Yoshizuru by the cross with Tajiri line to make the size larger. It is called Okudoi line of Tajima.

Mishima-ushi cattle are the original native cattle of Japan, best described as having ‘uncontaminated’ bloodlines.

Since Mishima Island cattle were isolated as a closed population, the body shape and size of the original native breed has been maintained. It is interesting to note, that a decree of the Japanese Shogun, isolated Japan from the rest of the world between 1635 and 1854. It is therefore, with a degree of certainty to expect that there was no introduction of new genes during this period in all of Japan.

The Japanese government designated Mishima Island cattle as a national natural treasure in 1928.

Mishima-ushi cattle are classified as late maturing cattle with dark brown coat colour and small horns, as well as a narrower body compared to modern Japanese Wagyu. They have a delicate appearance including their face. The average dimensions of a mature Mishima-ushi female (60 months old) are: Wither height: 112.8 cm; Chest girth: 152.1 cm; and Body weight: 261.1 kg.

Their movement is smart and dainty, while their drafting and carrying ability is inferior to Wagyu, their working will and turning action is superior. It is this superior working stamina that gives Mishima-ushi the ability to store energy in the form of marbling.

Records from 1739 to 1960 give an accurate assessment of cattle numbers and holder farms on Mishima Island. These numbers varied little during this period as the cattle were solely used as farm working animals in the small and stable paddy areas on the Island. Marked reductions in cattle and farm numbers were observed after 1960 due to the introduction of machinery on farms, where numbers reduced to 31 in 1975. Owing to the recent conservation focus on traditional livestock, the number had increased to 100 by the year 2000.

Mishima Island cattle were kept for practical usage. Their performance in beef production is quite different in production and growth rates from that of modern Japanese beef breeds (i.e. Wagyu). It was after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, (and the prohibitions against eating beef were lifted), the new government allowed imported British and European breeds to be cross bred with native cattle on the Japanese mainland.

In 1910, crossbreeding ceased when it revealed it did not improve the cattle, but produced inferior animals especially on working performance. The offspring of this period are the foundation of modern Wagyu cattle in Japan. Some areas, such as farmers in the Chugoku districts, had limited cross breeding programmes. As a result, the Tajima strain of cattle represented famously worldwide by Kobe and Matsuzaka branded beef, closely resembles the style of native Mishima-ushi cattle.

Breeding cows and some bulls in Mishima-ushi are designated as a natural treasure. But as the calves born are not designated as a natural treasure, you can remove them freely from Mishima Island. Once they are out of the area, they are not qualified to be a natural treasure. What is called “Black Wagyu” in Japan is an animal that has Zenwa certificate.

Mishima-ushi Protection Association was established when the Mishima-ushi were designated as a natural treasure, and they keep the records of pedigrees, birth, death, etc at the Council of Hagi city. Kamui Wakakusa’s pedigree is proven by Ushiken (a kind of registration certificate for Black Wagyu). Kamui Wakakusa with Gyuken was exported 20 years ago, with an official export permit from MAFF in Japan which was obtained legally. The pedigree submitted for the permit was Mishima Ushiken issued by the Mayor of Hagi City. The export to the U.S. was conducted lawfully.

Four years from 1990, all the male calves (7-10months) born in Mishima Island were purchased (which was approximately 24 per year). Kamui Wakakusa was one of them. Semen was collected from him after the inspection by MAFF and now this is kept in storage as a future resource against any future disasters for the breed.

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Wakakusa Kamui TF152 ( download Japanese Mishima pedigree )