Foundation stock of the present Belted Galloway herds in the United States and Canada date back to an importation from Scotland in 1948. Since then, when there have been no import restrictions, additional stock has been imported and herds gradually established from Maine to California and Canada to Texas.
Belties are members of the Galloway family of beef cattle, probably the oldest breed in the world today, which originated in the mountainous areas of southwestern Scotland. This area formally know as the province of Galloway, including the present counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown, contains some of the coldest, most austere and rough hill land in Britain. Historians in the 17th century commented on the "black hornless beasts of Galloway as much bigger and hardier of constitution than the blacks of Aberdeen."
Belted Galloways are characterized by the unique combination of certain special qualities which, when taken together, distinguish them from other beef cattle breeds. These strong, dominant traits are passed on to their progeny, both purebred and crossbred. The latter are usually polled, black and belted. These calves, having hybrid vigor, grow rapidly and produce a quality of beef, without excess fat, similar to purebred Belties.
Their most important trait, the economical production of beef under range conditions, stems from the fact that Galloways have been bred from their origin for beef production. This range-bred background is why Galloways, unsurpassed in foraging ability, are capable of ranging many miles each day for grass and water and will thrive under conditions that would be disastrous to other breeds. They rarely have foot problems so common with other breeds and will readily eat many grasses and weeds that other cattle refuse to eat until starved. When properly managed, Belties have a pleasant and agreeable temperament, are quiet and docile and easily handled.
Like other Galloways, Belties do not develop much fat under their hides. Instead they have a double coat of hair consisting of a dense, soft, short undercoat and a long, shaggy overcoat which is usually shed in hot weather. This double coat provides excellent protection in cold, wet, windy weather. In contrast, most other beef breeds put on a thick coat of uneconomical fat under their hides to provide the necessary insulation for protection against severe weather conditions.
Disease resistance runs high in the breed as a result of having been bred for centuries under "survival of the fittest" type environments. In addition to this resistance to diseases, they have a "will to live" that is superior to most, if not all other breeds of cattle.
Beltie cows produce a sufficient amount of rich milk to raise a robust calf, which at 205 days will frequently wean at half the dam's weight. Galloways and their crosses when properly finished will dress out at 60 to 62 percent of live weight. Early results from new research indicates Belties may have higher levels of Omega 3s and a greater propensity for the "tenderness gene."
Thus, these unique animals with many virtues seldom recognized, and as yet unexploited, should be of interest to both serious cattle breeders and commercial operators, as well as hobby farmers wishing to have animals on their property for ornamental purposes.
This content has been adapted from various Belted Galloway sources.
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