Many concerns about their origins are influenced by the unusual appearance of belted Galloway cattle. They are familiarly known as ‘Belties’ by animal breeders with a black, red or dun colour sandwiched around a white middle. While there are references to ‘sheeted’ cattle in literature and art as early as the 11th century, the first known history of the Belted Galloway suggests that they were developed in the former Galloway district of Scotland during the 16th century.
According to the History of the Belted Galloway Culture, the Belted Galloway is basically the same in origin and characteristics as the Galloway and only varies from the distinct white belt that is supposed to have been introduced by an infusion of Dutch Lakenvelder blood, possibly in the 17th or 18th century.
The writings of historians vary considerably, but they usually agree on three points regarding the origin of the Galloway/Belted Galloway. The breed is considered to be a very ancient one, with unknown roots and its name derived from the term Gallovid or Gaul. The Gauls were the native inhabitants of the province of Galloway. The region’s cattle were said to be black, smooth
The Galloway race of cattle originated from this coastal climate of winds and damp cold, mixed with an undulating landscape of moors, granite hills, heathery mountain ranges and rich glens.
While much of the history of British cattle has been written since the middle of the 18th century, almost without a record is the time immediately before that. Historian Hector Boece (1570), writing about the Galloway, says, “In this region ar mony fair ky and oxin of qubilk the flesh is right delicius and tender.” Ortelius, the historian writing in 1573, says, “In Carrick (then part of Galloway) are oxen of large size, whose flesh is tender, sweet and juicy.”
During the Scoto-Saxon era, the Galloway breed of cattle became important, and the Galloway breeders enjoyed the export of cheese and hides. The cattle were later sold in large numbers to English farmers who sent them to the Smithfield market after a fattening period on English grass. It is said that the breed of Galloway was never crossed with the other breeds. It is not known where the survey was performed.
In 1851, all the historical records and pedigrees of the Galloway collected before that period were destroyed by a fire at the Highland Agricultural Museum in Edinburgh. A Polled Herd Book was published eleven years later (1862) and included the breeds of Galloway, Aberdeen, and Angus. The Galloway Cattle Society of Great Britain introduced its own volume of pedigrees in 1878. Galloway’s first export
With its distinctive white belt covering the body, the Belted Galloway is a very distinctive breed, the majority of the body being black, dun or red in colour. The distinctive white belt found in Belted Galloways often varies in width and regularity slightly, but typically covers much of the body from the shoulders to the hooks. The white contrast to the black coat, which may have a tiny brownish coat
In order to turn rough grazing into lean meat, they are naturally polled hill cattle. Their double coat of long hair to shed the rain and fluffy undercoat reduces the need for costly housing for warmth.
The cows are long-lived (17-20 years), frequent breeders noted for the quantity of rich milk they produce, thus rearing a good calf. By putting them to a Whitebred Shorthorn, they can be used to breed a good Blue Grey. These Blue Greys and the strictly bred cows cross well with Continental sires, such as Charolais, Simmental, Limousin and Salers.
The Belted Galloways are alleged to be bigger, heavier in milk, and grow faster than the parent breed.
Although some are smaller and others bigger, a mature Belted Galloway Bull can weigh between 815 and 955 kilogrammes. A cow ranges between 400 to 600 kilogrammes, newborn heifers weigh about 30 kilogrammes on average, and a bull calf can be 35 kilogrammes and sometimes more. “Beltie” calves weaned at 205 days were around half the weight of their mother.
As a beef product, the Beltie produces exceptionally lean and tasty meat, with dressed carcass weights far above 60% of live weight.
These calves, having hybrid vigour, are rapidly growing and providing beef quality without excess fat comparable to purebred Belties. Their most significant feature, under range conditions, is the economic production of beef, due to the fact that Galloways were bred for beef production from their roots.