About Galloway Cattle

About Galloway Cattle

GALLOWAY, which has given its name to a valuable breed of black or dun polled cattle, was an ancient regality or lordship lying in the south-west of Scotland. The word is derived from Gallovid, which in old Scots signifies "a Gaul". The Gauls are said to have been the first inhabitants of this part of Scotland. The last of the old line of rulers was Alan, Lord of Galloway, who was buried in Dundrennan Abbey in 1233. The title passed into the house of Douglas of Thrieve, and the whole district was finally annexed to the Crown of Scotland in 1455.

Originally the whole of this land was covered with dense forests, principally oak. It was all thickly wooded in the days of the Romans when they marched through it, made their roads, raised their forts, and feasted on good Galloway beef. Through these forests roamed many wild cattle generally supposed to be the progenitors of the modern breed of Galloways.

Galloways are all hornless or polled. Some writers say that formerly they were mixed, some being horned and others polled.

The universal testimony amongst breeders of Galloways is that a pure-bred Galloway never had any trace of horns or even scurs.

 Such old breeders as James Grierson, of Caigton; Thos Biggar, of Chapelton; John Cunningham, of Whitecairn; the late Peter Kerr, senior, of Bellymack, and Alexander Halliday, of Culcagrie, gave their testimony very strongly on this point. They all say that no pure Galloway ever had horns. Oral testimony handed down to these men from the Galloway breeders of the last century is valuable and reliable. We therefore conclude that while there were horned cattle in Galloway, yet there were none of the native breed, the pure Galloway, with horns. Professor Low, of Edinburgh, author of a valuable work on the domestic animals of Great Britain, and who very carefully investigated this matter, says: "Some earlier notices rather conduct us to the conclusion that the absence of horns has been for a long period a distinctive characteristic of the race".

So marked is this polled character, that the produce of a pure-bred Galloway bull with any breed of horned cows should give polled calves. No other breed of polled cattle will equal the Galloway in this respect.

The breeding of cattle has been from time immemorial a principal object of the Galloway farmers.

A compiled history of Scotland alluding to the time prior to and including the reign of Alexander Ill (1249), says: "Black cattle were also reared in great numbers during the Scoto-Saxon period”.

George Buchanan, tutor to James 1 of England, writing about 1566, says of Galloway: "It is more fruitful in cattle than in corn".

Hector Boece (1570), writing of Galloway, says: "In this region ar mony fair ky and oxin of quhilk the flesh is right delicius and tender".

Ortellius, the historian, writing in 1573, says: "In Carrick (then part of Galloway are oxen of large size, whose flesh is tender, sweet and juicy".

This brings us to consider the excellence of the Galloway beef, which we see was acknowledged and recorded many hundred years ago. Galloways are pre-eminently a beef-producing breed. Their flesh is mottled or marbled fat and lean intermixed, and it was this quality which gave them their ancient fame, and which led to their being bred specially to supply the markets of England with beef of extra quality.

There is no other breed of cattle which can lay such claims to the title "purebred" as the Galloways. It has never been said in any well- informed quarter that the Galloway is not an original and distinct breed of cattle. It had no mixture with other breeds. All the improvements in the breed have come from within by careful selection.

There is no breed of cattle which can more truly be said to be indigenous to the country and incapable of improvement by any foreign cross. Youatt says: "The intelligent Galloway breeder is now perfectly satisfied that his stock can only be improved by adherence to the pure breed. And this experience has been arrived at by long and careful experiments".

Galloway breeders throughout the world consider the most desirable Galloway to be one of medium size; in contrast to some of the larger long legged breeds of cattle.

In confirmation the Galloway will be found to carry its meat from behind the shoulder along the back to the tail, through the buttock and deep into the hock; for this reason Galloway breeders, for centuries, have concentrated on this type of confirmation in their cattle and butchers have found that Galloways, in regard to their curability, marbling and colour of meat mature earlier than most other breeds of cattle.

The important constituent of good meat is its fat percentage. The Galloway will produce a quality carcase with the correct meat to fat ratio laying down the required fat cover over a large well marbled rib eye. This quality which gave them their ancient fame has been maintained by strict adherence within the breed.




The dominant colours are black, with a brownish tinge, dun, and black and dun belted. There are recessive gene strains of red and white.




Short and wide, with broad forehead and wide nostrils; without the slightest suggestions of horns or scurs.


Eye - Large and prominent.


Ear - moderate in length and broad, pointing forwards and upwards with fringe of long hairs.




Moderate in length, clean, and filling well into the shoulders; the top in a line with the back in a female, and in a male naturally rising with age.




Deep rounded, and symmetrical.


Shoulders - Fine and straight, moderately wide above; coarse shoulder points and sharp or high shoulders are objectionable.


Breast - Full and deep.


Back and Rump - Straight.


Ribs - Deep and well sprung.


Loin and Sirloin - Well filled.


Hook Bones - Not prominent


Hind Quarters - Long, moderately wide, and well filled.


Flank - Deep and full.




Broad, straight, and well let down to hock; rounded buttocks are very objectionable.


Legs - Well boned.


Tail - Well set on, and moderately thick.




Mellow, and moderately thick.


Hair - Soft and wavy, with mossy undercoat; wiry or curly hair is very objectionable.