Belted Galloway Cattle Breed History and Attributes
Belted Galloway Society
The Galloway Cattle and Beef Marketing Association
Belted Galloway cattle inspires many questions about their origins. With black, red or dun color sandwiched about a white middle, they are familiarly known as 'Belties' among breeders of the
animals. Though references to 'sheeted' cattle occur in literature and art as early as the 11th Century, the Belted Galloway's first recorded history indicates that they developed during the 16th Century in the former Galloway district
of Scotland, a rugged and hilly seacoast region where hardiness was necessary for survival.
According to the "The Galloway Cattle and Beef Marketing Association" this distinctively marked, hardy breed of beef cattle originated
in the Galloway area of southwestern Scotland. The bleak, austere, rough hill country origin of the "Beltie" breed has resulted in hardy cattle with characteristics which adapt readily to tough Australian conditions. The breed
is known to have existed for over three hundred years, and its exact origins are lost in the mists of time.
The British Isles then and now raised solid-colored, polled, shaggy-coated Galloway cattle generally considered to have evolved from an early Celtic breed. Precisely when and where selective breeding of the Belted variety of Galloway began
is shrouded in mystery, though theories abound.
It has been stated by some authorities that belted, or sheeted, cattle in England go back to the age of Charles II, although they are first mentioned in Scotland in the latter part of the 18th Century. The polled characteristic of Galloways
sets them apart from every other breed, they being derived from the original British polled cattle of antiquity.
Although it is impossible to affirm with certainty whether Belted Galloways were bred from cattle imported to Britain or native cattle, or a combination of the two, the logical conclusion is that they originated from a cross of Black Galloways
with Dutch Belted. Though no documentary evidence is available to substantiate the assumption, the known prepotency of the Dutch cattle lends weight to this view, and the frequent traffickings between Scotland and the Low Countries in the
17th and 18th Centuries would provide opportunities for the importation of a few Dutch Belted cattle. The horns, the only essential difference, would disappear with the predominance of Galloway blood.
There is little doubt that the cattle of the ancient Celtic people of Britain were predominantly black and that the Highland, Galloway and Welsh black are derived from the same stock, which has become diversified through time by selection
In the Galloway cattle there were originally various markings and colors [with] the polled characteristic, the coat, the conformation and the fine carcass quality setting them apart from other breeds. Galloways originally were black, spotted,
white-faced, red, dun, white and belted.
Although the white belt is a dominant genetic trait, occasionally solid black calves are born now in belted herds, and belted calves are born in Black Galloway herds.
Early standards for the breed remain valid today, except that the body should have less depth and the legs be longer than formerly. Lord Stuart's interesting book included this description: "The cattle of the breed are of typical beef
conformation. A good head, especially in bulls, is considered important, and this should be broad with the crown low and flat. The nostrils should be wide and the eyes large and prominent; the ears moderate in length, broad, pointing forwards
and upwards with a fringe of long hair. The neck should be fairly long and fit well into the shoulders.
The "Beltie" is a naturally polled (hornless) animal, and the distinctive "belt" markings are also dominant. The colorings can be black, dun (brown) or red with a white belt. Of significance to Australian
farmers is their ability to produce beef economically under tough conditions. Historically, these cattle were not shedded in the Scottish winters, and they have evolved into a hardy, adaptable breed with good foraging ability, easy calving
and the capacity to thrive in conditions where other breeds struggle.
The body should be deep and full through the heart with a level top and straight underline; the shoulders fine and straight; the breast full and deep, with the ribs well sprung; the hindquarters long. The flank should be deep and full.
The thighs should be deep and fairly straight; the legs short and clean with fine bone, and the tail well set on.
The skin should be mellow and moderately thick, covered with soft, wavy hair with a mossy undercoat. The coat is most important, as it protects the animal. Hard, wiry hair with no undercoat is objectionable, and so is a jet black coat.
This should be black with a brownish tinge.
The Belted Galloway has a magnificent winter coat, which comprises a double layer of hair to give excellent insulation from the cold. There is a long "overcoat" which readily sheds the rain and snow and helps keep the animal dry
and a very soft, mossy "undercoat" which traps the warmth and gives the Beltie the ability to maintain its body weight with 20 - 25% less food intake in cold weather. In hot weather, the coat is shed to a fine cover of hair. The
hide, in its full winter glory, is particularly attractive, and is sought after as a hard wearing floor rug and definite conversation piece.
The markings on the Belted Galloway are striking, and from the point of view of "eye appeal" make the breed instantly recognizable. They also have a very practical benefit, as the markings make the animal highly visible. This
is a significant help with aerial mustering, or in locating new calves or strays.
The Belted Galloway breed has become increasingly popular.The Belted Galloway is proving to be a winner with a wide diversity of breeders, ranging from the owners of vast stations in the dry center of the country, to those with small rural
holdings. The Beltie is also popular with dairy and other beef breeders across the country as a valuable sire of cross bred calves.
Weights for mature Belted Galloways in North America vary in accordance with their environment. In general, the mature Belted Galloway bull at age 5 weighs within the 1800-lb. to 2000-lb. range, though balance and conformation should be
considered before mature weight. There are some very fine bulls producing excellent progeny whose mature weights are less than 1800 lbs.
The Belted Galloway heifer is generally bred at age 14 to 18 months, with many breeders electing to breed at 700 to 800 lbs. without regard to months of age. The mature Beltie cow at age 3 or 4 averages 1100 to 1300 lbs. She can be expected
to annually produce a healthy calf well into her teen years. At birth bull calves usually weigh 70 to 80 lbs., heifer calves about 10 lbs. less.
The cows are long lived, and are known to produce live calves into their late old age. The Belted Galloways' heritage has conditioned them to survive in very harsh climates, and U.S. breeders have discovered
that the thrifty, medium-sized animals more than earn their way in any beef herd.
The "Beltie" mother is renowned for her mothering ability, and produces a very rich milk supply which produces a well - grown calf at weaning time. Calves are small at birth, which ensures easy calving, but "grow like mushrooms"
with the good milk supply.
The Beltie produces high quality beef, which is lean and tasty. The meat is nicely marbled, but is otherwise lower in superfluous fat. This ensures that the carcass cuts out at an economical rate, up to 62%. Winter warmth is provided by
the double coat of hair, rather than the layer of backfat most breeds require.