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Photo Credit: Courtesy Oklahoma State University
Use: British Whites are medium-size beef cattle about the height and size of Herefords or Angus. Both sexes are docile, fertile, and extra-friendly; even heifers calve with ease. They’re long-lived, productive (owners say these cows produce more pounds of calf per acre than any other breed in existence), and they thrive on middling pasture. Another bonus: they tend to stay put; they don’t challenge poor fences the way some other breeds do.
History: A great deal of confusion surrounds the origin of British White cattle. However, thanks to recent blood protein studies we know one thing is certain: they are not descended from Britain’s horned White Park cattle (known as Ancient White Park cattle in North America) as their advocates once believed. Most bovine historians think British White cattle trace their roots to eight- or ninth-century Scandinavia and that Viking traders may have carried them to the British Isles. What’s certain is that the British White herdbook was established in England in 1918, where the breed is now flourishing as never before. However, on the brink of World War II, British fanciers feared for their cattle’s survival. As a hedge against disaster, they shipped five cows and a bull to a prison farm in Pennsylvania. These animals, plus British Whites imported during the 1700’s, and several more bulls imported from England during the twentieth century, form the foundation of today’s American White Park and British White herds. In 1975, a registry formed, calling itself the White Park Cattle Association of America (it’s now called the American British White Park Association). The original name created considerable confusion since the breed is descended from British Whites instead of White Park cattle, so when a second group formed in 1987, organizers called it the British White Cattle Association of America.
Conformation: British White cattle are white with black points (noses, eyes, ears, teats, and lower front legs) and some cattle have scattered spots of black along their sides. Occasionally a red-pointed or line-backed calf is born and this has occurred throughout the breed’s history. Most are polled (naturally hornless) although three- to five-percent are horned (the American British White Park Association registers horned cattle, the British White Cattle Association of America does not), and rudimentary horns called scurs sometimes occur.
Special Considerations/Notes: British White Cattle are ideal for the farmer who wants to produce a lot of tasty beef (particularly organic or grass-fed beef) but who doesn’t care to deal with flighty cattle.