Historian's writings differ somewhat, but upon three points they generally agree
regarding the origin of the Galloway. The breed is recognized to be a very ancient one,
with obscure origins shrouded in antiquity and its' name derived from the word Gallovid or
Gaul. The Gauls were the native inhabitants of the regality known as the Province of
Galloway. This province once comprised six shires(counties) ... Dumfries, Lanark, Renfew,
Ayr, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown in the very southernmost extremity of Scotland's Lowlands.
The cattle of the region were said to be dark, smooth-polled, wavy-haired with undercoats
like beaver's fur and for centuries they went unnamed, referred to only as the black
cattle of Galloway. From this coastal environment of winds and damp cold, combined with an
undulating terrain of moors, granitic hills, heathery mountain ranges and fertile glens
... emerged the Galloway breed of cattle.
Though much has been written of the history of British cattle since the middle of the 18th
century, the period immediately before that is almost without a record. Historian Hector
Boece (1570), writing about the Galloway, says, "In this region ar mony fair ky and
oxin of qubilk the flesh is right delicius and tender." Ortelius, the historian
writing in 1573, says, "In Carrick (then part of Galloway) are oxen of large size,
whose flesh is tender, sweet and juicy."
The Galloway breed of cattle became important during the Scoto-Saxon period, and the
breeders of Galloway enjoyed the export of cheese and hides. Later the cattle were sold in
considerable numbers to English farmers who sent them to Smithfield market after a
fattening period on English grass. It is said that the Galloway breed was never crossed
with the other breeds. It is not known where the polled character was acquired by the
Galloway breed because in its beginning many of the cattle were horned. However, many
writers during the last part of the 1700s and early 1800s mentioned polled Galloway
cattle, and the breeders decided they liked the polled characteristic and started
selecting their cattle for the character. Most of the early cattle in the Galloway
district were black, but red, brown, brindles, and cattle with white markings were not
In 1851, a fire at the Highland Agricultural Museum at Edinburgh destroyed all the
historical records and pedigrees of the Galloway collected prior to that time. Eleven
years later (1862), a Polled Herd Book was published and it included the Galloway,
Aberdeen, and Angus breeds. In 1878 the Galloway Cattle Society of Great Britain initiated
its own volume of pedigrees. The first exportation of Galloways to North America came in
1853 to the Graham brothers of Toronto, Canada. Michigan State College, Lansing, imported
the first Galloways to America in 1866. The American Galloway Breeders' Association
organized in 1882 and Volume I of the North American Galloway Herd, published in 1883,
listed American and Canadian Galloways.
William McCombie, (pioneer Scottish Angus & Shorthorn breeder) said, "The
Galloway undoubtedly has many great qualifications. On poor land they are unrivaled, on
land so poor our Aberdeens could not subsist upon it. There is no other breed worth more
by the pound weight than a first-class Galloway."
The most visible characteristic of the Galloway is their long hair coat. Serving a dual
purpose, the coarse outer coat sheds wind and rain, while the soft, fur-like under coat
provides insulation and waterproofing. The color of the coat ranges from the more popular
Black, to Dun (silver through brown), Red, White (with dark pigment about the eyes, nose,
ears and teats), and the Belted (black, dun or red, with a white band around the middle).
Mature bull weights range from 1,700 to 2,300 pounds with an average being 1,800 pounds.
The mature cow generally weighs from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds with the average being around
1, 250 pounds. Calf birth weights average from 75-80 pounds.
"Galloway cattle are generally very docile," quotes William Youatt, (English
researcher, scientist, veterinary surgeon, historian & standard writer on cattle in
the early 1800s.) He goes on to say, "This is a most valuable point about them in
every respect. It is rare to find even a bull furious or troublesome." Galloways are
very courageous however, and if annoyed by dogs or wild animals, they will act in concert,
by forming a crescent and jointly attacking. There are claims that one or two Galloways in
a field of sheep prevent any danger from dogs.
What Does the Galloway Breed Offer Todays Beef Industry?
The Galloway, unrivaled as a grazing breed, utilizes coarse grasses and browse
frequently shunned by other breeds. Furthermore, their ability to produce a high quality
beef product directly from grass, has true economic value in that it is not necessary to
feed grains to 'finish' them. The Galloway steer, whether grass or grain fattened, can
produce the ideal 600-750 pound carcass.
The Galloway is a maternal breed. The cows are easy calvers, while the calves themselves
are hardy, vigorous and have a 'will to live' that gets them up and nursing quickly. The
Galloway is long-lived, with many cows producing regularly into their teens and beyond.
This trait alone can determine much of the economics and efficiency of any cattle
Due to the breed's naturally dense, insulating hair coat the Galloway does not layer on
excessive outside fat, which would only end up on the butcher's floor at slaughter time.
Results of a multi-breed research project conducted by a Canadian Government Experiment
Station, reveal that the Galloway ranks second only to the Buffalo in hair density tests.
The robust, hardy nature of the Galloway has never been disputed. Though considered a
breed for northern climates, the Galloway has been found to acclimate amazingly well to
The claim that Galloway beef is juicy, tender, and flavorful is substantiated in recent
USDA tests of Galloway crossbreds, when compared with eleven other breeds. Results of the
Cycle IV Germ Plasm Evaluation (GPE) Program at the USDA Meat Animal Research Center
(MARC), Clay Center, Nebraska, showed the Galloway crosses placing at the top of the chart
for flavor, juiciness and tenderness.
Today's Galloway breeder recognizes current beef industry trends, seeing the Galloway's
potential role in crossbreeding and composite breed programs. The American Galloway
Breeders' Association attuned to industry needs, offers an Appendix Registry system in
addition to and kept separately from their purebred registry program. Both systems, as
well as the EPD program are computerized. Additionally, the AGBA sponsors a National Show
and Sale, hold annually in conjunction with their Convention, the third week of October,
in Billings, Montana. Additionally, the AGBA arranges for ultrasound measurements for
carcass traits, as well as measurements for frame size, pelvic capacity and scrotal
Material written specifically for the Breeds of Livestock project, Patricia Pruitt,
Publisher, The Galloway Press. Phone: (406) 587-3031.
Modern Breeds of Livestock, Hilton M. Briggs & Dinus M. Briggs, Fourth Edition
Patricia Pruitt, Publisher, The Galloway Press