Welsh White Cattle

Many people confuse cattle of this rare breed with British White Cattle, but they are not the same. British White Cattle a naturally poll free, whereas Welsh white are naturally horned, as is shown in this photograph of a bull.

Coloured cattle were once the mainstay of Welsh country folklore and few farms would have been without at least one. But there is another difference which derives from their origin today. In 1905 it was nationally decided to concentrate entirely on Welsh Black (because of its genetic dominance) for Wales, and many ancient breeds of cattle were lost, being bred out, apparently forever. But not their genes, which survived particularly within the Welsh Black in Meirionnydd and indeed in a few farms where coloured bulls (including both Welsh White and belted cattle) survived and when put to Welsh Black produce about half their progeny as coloured cattle. There are a number of herds of coloured cattle (as opposed to black) around Wales today and pedigrees are now established for many of these. 6 colour basic varieties – white, belted, red, blue, smokey/mouse and line-backed. Certain other combinations are occasionally thrown, ie: white with red points, reds or blues with belts, line-backs in a variety of colours – roan being common.

They are known to have been around for 4,000 years and yet now just a few hundred survive: the ancient welsh coloured cattle from which emerged the Welsh Black, but the Welsh White and other coloured cattle now depend for their survival on enthusiasts and smallholders.

So their future now rests with a handful of Welsh farmers who are determined to carry on the breed, and most of these are members of the Ancient Cattle of Wales Society who believe in ensuring the survival of the ancient cattle of Wales as part of the living agricultural heritage of Wales.

One such farm is on fairly marginal land of small fields in Snowdonia, and has been owned by the same family since around 1843. It was in 1970 that the present owner asked a neighbour for a white bull calf which he raised and in due course mated with his herd of Black Welsh with the result that he was able to start a herd of Welsh White which has grown over the years to twenty three - a bull, 11 breeding cows, 3 heifers and 8 calves.

The original outcome was that the Black Welsh produced 6 white and 6 black but now although there is an occasional black calf born nearly all the White Welsh produce white calves. . This bull, shown below, (as well as all the herd) has had his horns removed after one of his predecessors managed to inflict serious damage to his owner, although this particular one is very docile.

Raising the cattle is done in the same way as for Welsh Black Cattle, and of course the meat and milk production is the same. The animals stay outside from April to November, but are taken in for each winter - a group of cows is shown here, let out for exercise and fresh air. They are subject to the same requirements of identification and tests as any other cattle.

The nose, feet, ears and the teats of the Welsh White are all black, and there are other colour variations, all of which are derived from the ancient stock .

So what happens in the future? The breed, like all rare breeds, will depend entirely on the enthusiasm and hard work of a few dedicated farmers who have an interest, and particularly on the members of the Ancient Cattle of Wales Society. If you are interested, contact

Sian Ioan
Gwartheg Hynafol Cymru - Ancient Cattle of Wales
Croesheddig Newydd
Pentre'r Bryn
SA44 6NB

01545 560255

The society is currently in the process of applying to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust for recognised breed status. And finally, for your enjoyment, here is a White Welsh calf

Thanks to Gareth Ioan and to Meirion Owen for the information about these ancient and rare breed cattle

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