There are several theories about the origin of the Hungarian gray cattle: one says their ancestors came to the Carpathian Basin with the Cumans; according to the other they could have been brought in by the Hungarians during their Western campaigns; or, they were domesticated from the Aurochs; but, none of these theories has been proven.

From the 14th until up to the 19th century, sources mention Hungarian gray cattle as slaughter cattle that was driven to distant western markets. At that time, the pastures were replaced by arable land, and extensive animal breeding was completely pushed into the background. The Hungarian gray cattle could not compete with modern breeds used either for their meat or as dairy cattle. As a result, the role of these animals changed, they were mostly used as carting and tilling animals, but eventually the number of these animals declined rapidly with the spread of mechanization in agriculture.

Today, Hungarian gray cattle is considered an endangered breed, used mainly for their meat and as a tourist attraction, paying special attention to the preservation of their gene pool.

Traditional grazing plays a key role in preserving grasslands. The Hungarian gray cattle is a very suitable breed for nature conservation treatment. It makes the best use of mesophilic grasslands, the riparian zone of wetter meadows and intermittent water areas. By biting and trampling reed, in a short period of time, a mosaic grassland association is created which allows for having various species and also the appearance of protected ones. The grazing of Hungarian gray cattle creates an excellent habitat for coastal birds and maintains saline grasslands.