No-one is absolutely certain precisely where the 'Beltie' originated. The most popular belief is that it resulted from crossing the ancient Galloway with the Dutch Belted cow – the Lakenvelder, in the 17th and 18th centuries when trading links between Britain and the Low countries were at their most lucrative.
The distinct and ancient Galloway cattle were in Scotland long before that and originated in the old counties of Kirkcudbright and Wigtown area of south west Scotland. While black was the favoured colour, they could also appear as brindle, red, dun, white, brocket faced and eventually as white middled or 'belted.'
The breed's spectacular appearance coupled with its renowned hardiness proved an impressive combination. It quickly began to flourish in the UK with many notable families taking a long term interest in its development. Miss Flora Stuart of Mochrum (right) famously supported numerous innovations that helped to secure the breed’s status in the Scottish beef industry.
There were four foundation herds; The Boreland herd of Mr. Sproat, near Kirkcudbright; the Lullenden herd of Sir Ian Hamilton; the Mark herd of Mr. Graham which moved to Auchengassel in 1900 and the Mochrum herd then owned by the Marquis of Bute. These four herds together with thirteen others in Scotland plus nine in England formed the Dun and Belted Cattle Breeders' Association in 1921. This new society quickly established an export market resulting in herds being found in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Europe. Many of the original herds which founded the society are still in existence today. The Belted Galloway is now enjoying more popularity than ever before as well as a world-wide reputation thanks to the interest and dedication of these few initial breeders who nurtured and developed its unique qualities.
Fascinating facts …..
As early as 1800 Belted Galloway cattle were introduced to Northumberland by Lady Melville where the Bowes Lyon family of Ridley Hall carefully bred cattle of an excellent type with consistent markings.
Sir Winston Churchill's first cow was supplied by Sir Ian Hamilton's Lullenden herd originally in Sussex.
In the days before the railways, when cattle were driven from Galloway and Dumfries to Norfolk Fairs, the drovers always liked to have a Beltie in the bunch, so that in the dark days they could pick out the way the cattle were heading.
Interested in finding out more about the Beltie's history? – “An Illustrated History of Belted Cattle” by former Society President Lord David Stuart, whose forbears founded the Mochrum herd is a fascinating read.