Commonly called “Oreo cattle” because of their black color (possibly brown or red) with a white stripe through their middles, this breed started in Scotland as a solid-color cow, but got their belts through the introduction of Dutch Belted blood.
The origin of the white belt is unknown, but generally presumed to come from cross breeding with Dutch Belted cattle, also known as Lakenvelder. 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.
It is claimed that the Belted Galloways are larger, milk heavier, and grow more rapidly than the parental breed. The distinctive white belt found in Belted Galloways often varies somewhat in width and regularity but usually covers most of the body from the shoulders to the hooks. The white contrast to the black coat, which may have a brownish tinge in the summer, sets the breed apart with its striking color pattern. The fore part of the udder may be within the white belt. Because of this distinctive look the cattle are also called as “Oreo cookie cows”.
Belted Galloways, are currently listed with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy as a “recovering” breed, which means there are more than 2,500 annual registrations in the United States and a global population of exceeding than 10,000. However, this status still means that they were once on the watch list. In 2007 they were formally removed from the UK Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s watch list, having recovered sufficiently from the devastation of the foot and mouth crisis of the early 2000s, to have reached in excess of 1500 registered breeding females. 18,390 cattle were registered in the US in 2015.
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 spend winter outside. Black Belteds are most prominent, but Dun and Red Belteds 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 dewclaw 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.
Bulls weigh from 1,700 pounds (770 kg) to 2,300 pounds (850 kg) with the usual being around 1,800 pounds (820 kg). Cows weigh from 1,000 pounds (450 kg) to 1,500 pounds (675 kg) with the usual being around 1,250 pounds (565 kg). Calves generally weigh around 70 pounds. Belted Galloways are generally of a quiet temperament, but still maintain a maternal instinct and will protect a calf against perceived threats.
They 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.