First ever Galloway Herd Book

This article was reprinted from the 1992 Galloway Journal, Galloway Cattle Society, Scotland.

It details the first herd book recordings of Galloway cattle.

First ever Herd Book was published in 1822

Reprinted from the 1992 Galloway Journal, Galloway Cattle Society, Scotland

It is probably true to say that since man first domesticated cattle he has sought to fashion their characteristics to suit his ideals, these ideals being greatly influenced by what his needs were from the animal, be it as a beast of burden or for the supply of milk, beef or leather.

By the early years of the eighteen hundreds this quest for improvement had challenged the skills of many of the breeders be they substantial landowners or small farmers in areas as diverse as the North of Scotland to the South of England.

As these improvements continued some of the prominent men involved recognised a need to record the pedigrees of their cattle and more importantly for these records to be made available for others to use, with the result that in 1822 the first ever Herd Book was published by Mr George Coates in which was recorded the pedigrees of the Shorthorn breed of cattle. Over the next fifty years Mr Coates published further volumes of his register until he sold the copyright to the Shorthorn Society who still publish Coates Herd Book to the present day.

In the world of the Galloway the first pedigrees were recorded in the Polled Herd Book which was first published around 1843, unfortunately the whole of the materials collected were destroyed in the fire which took place in the Highland and Agricultural Society's Museum in Edinburgh in 1851.

The collection of pedigrees was again commenced in 1857 and was published in 1862. Volume 1 contained the records of 946 cows and 336 bulls and of these 96 cows and 30 bulls were identified as being of the Galloway breed.

In 1878 writing in Volume 1 of the Galloway Herd Book the Editor, and Secretary of the newly formed Society The Reverend John Gillespie said,

"The Galloway Cattle Society, for the management of a Herd Book was formed in the spring of 1877. It was felt that though the Polled Angus or Aberdeen cattle and the Galloways, having probably originally sprung from the same source, have still a strong resemblance to each other, yet these being now distinct varieties it was desirable to have a separate Herd Book for each, all the more so that their respective homes are so far apart from each other. Moreover, the Polled Herd Book being private property, the breeders had no power to determine the qualifications which animals ought to possess to entitle them to admission into the Herd Book, and in fact they had no direct control over its management in any respect. There was the additional drawback that the proprietor and editor of it ‑ Mr Alexander Ramsay, Banff ‑ residing at such a distance from the head‑quarters of the Galloways, came so little personally into contact with the breeders that the entries of the animals of that breed could not be expected to be so numerous as is desirable. Such were the main considerations, which led to the formation of the Galloway Cattle Society. However, it was obviously desirable that the new Society should possess the copyright of the Galloway portion of the Polled Herd Book, and accordingly negotiations were opened with Mr Ramsay through a committee of the Society, of which Mr Maxwell of Munches was convener, with the view of effecting the purchase of it. The overtures of the Committee being met by Mr Ramsay in a frank manner, the copyright was purchased, the price paid being £75. A fund was raised by subscription to defray the purchase money and to provide such an additional sum as might be necessary for putting the Society into working order. Subscribers of not less than 10s were constituted original members of the Society, a list of whom will be found in an appendix."


Whilst this was the first time that breeders of Galloway Cattle had the power to control what was published regarding their cattle it certainly was not the first time that mention had been made to cattle from South West Scotland.

In 1682 a manuscript called "A large Description of Galloway" was published. Its author was the Reverend Andrew Symson who had been the Minister of the parish of Kirkinner in the county of Wigtownshire since 1663. At the time of publication the mention of Galloway referred to the then Kingdom of Galloway that included the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Wigtownshire and also parts of Ayrshire and Durnfriesshire.

In part of the manuscript the Reverend Symson refers to the husbandry of the countryside. He said the products of the area are bestial (cattle), small horses, sheep, wool, barley oats and hay. Cattle are sold in England, sheep in Edinburgh and wool at Ayr, Glasgow and Stirling whilst the horses are sold at local fairs.

Referring to his parish of Kirkinner he mentions Sir David Dunbar of Baldone and says that he has a park about two and a half miles long and about one mile and a half wide, with the greatest part a rich and deep valley ground yielding excellent grass. This park can keep, in both summer and winter, about a thousand cattle. Part of this herd is bought in the surrounding county and they graze there throughout the winter, the remainder is of his own breeding for he has around two hundred breeding cows most of which calve yearly.

Cattle are mostly sold in August and September each year either at home to drovers or are sent to fairs in England. These cattle are usually about four years old and are usually very large and are likely to sell for five or six pounds sterling each.

In another part of the manuscript he states that in 1682 fifty-nine cattle, the property of Sir David Dunbar, were seized in England as it was believed that they were black Irish cattle the importation of which at this time was prohibited. These cattle were brought before a local magistrate and as the drover had not been able to swear that he had seen them born they were sentenced to be knocked on the head and killed (and we thought it was the French who had invented such sabotage for foreign exports).

To examine in detail some of the facts contained in the Herd Book is to open the door of a fascinating world ‑ it is after all difficult to summarise over a hundred volumes in an article such as this.

The first bull recorded shows that he was calved in 1845 and was named "The Squire". He was bred by George Graham, Riggfoot, Cumberland and both his father Cumberland Willie and his grandfather Galloway Lad also appear in the Herd Book. Cumberland Willie or Borness was bred by William Sproat, Bomess, Kirkcudbright and in addition to siring The Squire he was also the father of two other notable cornerstones of the breed in the bulls, Mosstrooper and Brother of Mosstrooper.

Cows of similar age are also recorded, one interesting entry being for the cow Modesty of Meikle Culloch. She was calved in 1857 and was bred and subsequently shown by James Graham, Meikle Culloch, Dalbeattie. Her showing career is impressive if it is remembered that travel would have been by rail or horse drawn float. She gained first prize at the Highland Show in Glasgow and second at Brampton in 1867. In 1868 she won a Gold Medal at the Highland in Aberdeen and stood second at Wigton and in 1869, accompanied by another cow (Lady Kenmure), they stood first in the pairs at the Royal Show held in Manchester and again she won another Gold Medal at the Highland, this time in Edinburgh, with another first at Wigton. In 1870, this time at Dumfries, she was to win another Gold Medal from the Highland Agricultural Society.

The first two cows to appear in the Herd Book were also bred and used in the herd of Mr Graham, however probably the earliest mention of any animal in any pedigree is the cow Blackie the First ‑ she was the property of Robert Sherman, Balig, Kirkcudbright, in 1818 some 174 years ago. If we consider 4 years as reasonable for a generation in the breeding of cattle this gives us the capability of tracing back to this animal forty-three generations. Should a calf today be traced for these forty three generations it would have the astounding figure of over eight million million antecedents, it would need a large certificate to record such a pedigree.

Up to Volume 90, which was published at the end of the calving year on the 31st August, 1969, a total of 101510 females and 38244 males have had their pedigrees registered and published by the Society. Since that date a registration certificate giving details of breeder, identification marks, date of birth and parentage for three generations is issued for each animal. The Herd Book continues to be published also and gives a resume' of the registrations recorded and also gives the extended pedigree of bulls whose progeny have been registered for the first time.

Volume 110 will be published at the end of 1992 and shows that since 1st September 1969, a further 30117 females and 1606 males have been registered with the Society.