The breed was developed in Denmark based on local breeds bred with Angeln cattle from Angeln, Schleswig. Danish Red cattle (and, earlier, Angeln cattle) have been imported to many other countries and have been used to improve and form many local breeds, such as Lithuanian Red,
Latvian Red, Polish Red, Belarus Red, Tambov Red (Russian Red), Bulgarian Red, etc.
The solid red color of these breeds has helped in making them popular for crossbreeding in tropical countries with red Zebu dairy breeds like Sahiwal, Red Sindhi and Butana. They are good milk cows, yielding milk with higher butter fat and protein content than the Holstein Friesian does.