The Belted Galloway is a rare beef breed of cattle originating from Galloway in South West Scotland, adapted to living on the poor upland pastures and windswept moorlands of the region. The exact origin of the breed is unclear although it is often surmised that the white belt that distinguishes these cattle from the native black Galloway cattle may be as a result of cross breeding with Dutch Lakenvelder belted cattle.
Belted Galloways are primarily raised for their quality marbled beef, although they are sometimes milked and purchased to adorn pastures due to their striking appearance. In the US these cows are often informally known as “police car cows,””panda cows” or “Oreo cows” after the Oreo biscuit.
The origin of the white belt is unknown, but generally presumed to come from cross breeding with Dutch Belted cattle. A Polled Herd Book was started in 1852 which registered both Aberdeen-Angus and Galloways. Galloway breeders acquired their own herd book in 1878. The Dun and Belted Galloway Association was formed in Scotland in 1921, and in 1951 the name of the organization was changed to the Belted Galloway Society and dun cattle were no longer registered. It also keeps and records pedigrees for Belted Galloways and oversees the registration of White and Red Galloways. Currently in the UK there is a thriving breeding programme overseen and guided by the Belted Galloway Cattle Society. Belted Galloways were first imported to the United States by Harry A. Prock of Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania in the late 1940s. A Belted Galloway Society was formed in the United States in the early 1950s.
Galloway cattle are naturally polled. The most visible characteristics of the Belted Galloway are its long hair coat and the broad white belt that completely encircles the body. Its coarse outer coat helps shed the rain, and its soft undercoat provides insulation and waterproofing, enabling the breed to happily overwinter outside. Black Belties are most prominent, but Dun and Red Belties are also recognized by breed societies, the latter being comparatively rare and sought after. A female Belted Galloway cannot be registered in the Herd Book if it has white above the dew claw other than the belt, but can be registered in the Appendix. A bull can only be registered in the Herd book if it has no other white than the belt.
Belties are well-suited for rough grazing land and will utilize coarse grasses other breeds would shun. They are able to maintain good condition on less than ideal pasture, and produce a high quality beef product on grass alone. The USDA Cycle IV Germ Plasm Evaluation Program at the Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) showed that Galloway crosses placed at the top of the chart for flavor, juiciness and tenderness when compared to eleven other breeds.