A. H. Chatfield, Jr. talks about Belted Galloways
The Belted Galloway Society, Inc., a non-profit association of breeders in the United States, was organized in 1951 for the recording of pedigrees and promotion of Belted Galloway cattle. Foundation stock of the present Belted Galloway herds in the United States and Canada apparently date back to an importation from Scotland in 1950. Since then, when there have been no import restrictions, additional stock has been brought over and herds gradually have been established from Maine to California and from eastern Canada to Florida and Texas.
Belted Galloways are characterized by the unique combination of certain special qualities which, taken together, distinguish them from other beef cattle. These strongly dominant traits are passed on to their progeny, both purebred and crossbred. The latter are also usually polled, black and belted. These calves, having hybrid vigor, grow rapidly and produce the quality of beef without excess fat similar to purebred Belties.
Belties are members of the Galloway family of beef cattle, probably the oldest breed in the world today, which originated in the mountainous areas of southwestern Scotland. Formerly known as the province of Galloway, including the present counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown, this area contains some of the coldest and most austere rough hill land in Britain. Historians in the 17th Century commented on the “black hornless beasts of Galloway as much bigger and hardier of constitution than the blacks of Aberdeen."
Their most important trait, the economical production of beef under range conditions, stems from the fact that Galloways have been bred from their origin for beef production.
Many other breeds were bred for milk and meat production and were kept in sheds during rough weather or hand fed; not so the Galloway.
This range-bred background is why Galloways, unsurpassed in foraging ability, are capable of ranging many miles each day for grass and water and will thrive under conditions that would be disastrous to other breeds. When properly managed, Belties have a pleasant and agreeable temperament and are quiet, docile and easily handled. Like other Galloways, Belties do not develop much fat under their hides; instead they have a double coat of hair consisting of a dense, soft, short undercoat and a long, shaggy overcoat, which is usually cast in hot weather. This double coat provides excellent protection in cold, wet, windy weather. In contrast, most other British beef breeds put on a thicker layer of uneconomical fat under their hides to provide the necessary insulation for protection against severe weather conditions.
Disease resistance runs high in the breed as a result of having been bred for centuries under ‘survival of the fittest’ type environments. In addition to this resistance to diseases, they have a ‘will to live’ that is superior to most, if not all, other breeds of cattle. Congenital problems such as dwarfism are unknown to Belted and other Galloways.
Beltie cows produce a sufficient amount of rich milk to raise a husky calf, which at 205 days will frequently wean at half the dam’s weight. Galloways and their crosses, when properly finished, will dress out at 60 to 62% of live weight. Thus, these unique animals with many virtues seldom recognized and as yet unexploited should be of interest to both breeders and commercial operators.
Author A.H. Chatfield, Jr.’s Aldermere Farm in Rockport, ME bred Belted Galloways continuously for almost fifty years, and supplied foundation animals to herds all over the continent. ‘Chat’ continued active involvement in the breed until his death at age 99-1/2 in June, 1999. His amazing memory and excellent records provided an invaluable resource to people interested in learning about Belted Galloways. Above, an early outstanding Aldermere herd sire, Aldermere Hamish (click for larger image).