The Charolais originated in west-central to southeastern France, in the old French provinces of Charolles and neighboring Nievre. The exact origins of the Charolais are lost to us but it must have been developed from cattle found in the area. Legend has it that white cattle were first noticed in the region as early as 878 A.D., and by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were well and favorably known in French markets, especially at Lyon and Villefranche. Selection developed a white breed of cattle which, like other cattle of continental Europe, were used for draft, milk and meat.
The breed tends to be large-muscled, with bulls weighing up to 2,400 lbs.