Why are Belted Galloways considered to be Fullblood Cattle

The President of the Galloway Cattle & Beef Marketing Association, Greg Stuart, provides an explanation of why Belted Galloway cattle are considered to be Fullblood cattle.


I was asked at Canberra Show why the GC&BMA considers qualifying Belted Galloways to be fullblood when we know they originated from an ancient cross. 

To answer the question we need to look at some history. Galloways are acknowledged as a Landrace breed of the Scottish Galloway region, meaning they evolved in that region with little or no human intervention. They are recognised as one of the oldest breeds of cattle, some say the oldest British breed. But Galloways themselves just didn’t appear out of the blue. They evolved from ancient Celtic cattle. The first Galloway breed society to record matings, to describe Galloway characteristics and to ensure maintenance of subsequent genetic purity by having a closed herdbook was formed in Scotland over 160 yrs ago. The GC&BMA and other bodies accept Galloways that can be directly traced to the originating Scottish Society as fullbloods as they are cattle descended from that closed herdbook. In the case of Galloways this acceptance is reinforced by the length of time they have existed and had their characteristics described. But ultimately it is because they descended from a closed herdbook that ensures the Galloway’s ability to breed true to their characteristics. In genetic terms their characteristics are fixed.

A definition of a closed herdbook is a herdbook where an animal can be registered only if both its parents are also registered in the herdbook. No “outside” animals or upgraded animals, no matter how high a percentage, are eligible to enter a closed herdbook. This ensures no genetics of another breed can enter the closed herdbook. Breed genetics/characteristics are protected without effecting the breed’s natural genetic variation. A breed’s natural genetic variation allows stud breeders to select and progress their own breeding objectives without the introduction of foreign genes.

Cattle can be recognised as fullbloods even though their breed is quite young. Speckle Park is a very new breed. It was recognised as a new breed by Agriculture Canada, a Canadian Government Department in 2006. To achieve this, the breeders had to satisfy Agriculture Canada that the cattle bred true i.e. their breed characteristics were fixed and herd book closed. Therefore all the cattle descended from the closed Canadian and Australian Speckle Park herdbooks are fullbloods. By a similar process White Galloways were recognised by Agriculture Canada as a separate breed in 1990.

The Belted Galloway Society (UK) is almost 100 years old and is itself one of the world’s older breed societies. Throughout virtually all that time The Belted Galloway Society has maintained a closed herdbook.

Even though Belted Galloways are known to originate from an ancient cross 300 odd years ago; they are recognised as a very old breed in the scheme of longevity of cattle breeds especially when you consider some other breeds deriving from crosses. Breeds such as Santa Gertrudis and even Poll Hereford derive from more recent crosses. Eminent organizations like the Roslyn Institute recognise all of the above breeds as fullblood. This is because of the same reasons as for the Galloway. That is they descend from a closed herdbook and their characteristics are fixed.

Thus the GC&BMA accepts Belted Galloways that can trace all of their ancestors back to The Belted Galloway Society Herdbook as fullblood Belted Galloways.


Greg Stuart


Galloway Cattle & Beef Marketing Association