Origin of Breed
In 1697, the British White breed originated in Whalley Abbey, Lancashire. This herd is said to be the foundation for the breed when these “wild” horned white cattle were crossed with a polled bull from Cleveland in northeast England. These cattle traveled to Gisburne then Somerford around 1725. From there it spread to East Anglia, which was the center of activity for this breed for many years. The oldest existing herd, Woodbastwick (owned by the Cator family), is found in East Anglia. Another herd that contributed to this breed was the Somerford herd, in Cheshire, which was described as having cattle of a type between the horned and polled park cattle.
Between 1875 and 1918, general exchanges of bulls took place between the herds of Somerford, Woodbastwick and Northrepps. Therefore, the blood of all these founding herds was commingled. Through various herds there became two different types of this breed horned (White Park) and polled (British White.) From 1921 to 1946, the White Park and British White cattle were listed in the same herd book, until a separate herd book was started for each. Originally, both polled and horned were admitted into the society but since 1948 only polled have been accepted for registration.
For a significant time, the producers struggled to maintain the breed in the face of very low numbers. However, in 1973 the Rare Breeds Survival Test was formed and so did the awareness and desirability of this rare breed. In 1990, British White production significantly grew to 116 herds containing over 1,500 registered cattle.
The British White was a dual-purpose breed for beef and milk until 1950. Since then, the British Whites have been used mainly for beef production.
This traditional British breed is large framed and naturally polled. They are white in color, with black points including their nose, muzzle, ears, eyelids, teats, hooves and tongue. Their skin is pink and blue (dark pigmented). The black points and this type of pigmentation eliminates eye cancer and sunburn. Some British White are red pointed, however, they are a minority. Back lines are straight and strong with a slight slope to the tail head. The cow udders are well set and tight with small black teats. The bull scrotums are well shaped and large in size, a 38-42cm circumference in yearling bulls is normal.
Mature bulls weigh around 1,800 to 2,300 lbs. while mature cows range from 1,000 to 1,500 lbs.
British Whites are dual-purpose cattle that are known for their docility, hardiness and disease resistance. They are tick tolerant, which makes them efficient in the pasture and in other environments. These cattle are easy to work with, which saves additional labor and input costs. They are good milk producers and have excellent maternal qualities. The British White Breed is very fertile with a high calving ease. They are well known for their beef qualities with their meat being of excellent texture.
Today, British Whites are commonly used in commercial operations. With their moderate frame and high feed efficiency, this breed is ideal for the feedlot and the pasture.
Development in America
Out of fear of an impending invasion by Germany in 1941, five cows and one bull were shipped to a prison farm in Pennsylvania in order to try and keep the British White breed alive. These and other bulls shipped from England and other animals imported from Australia formed the basis of the British White breed in North America.
The British White Cattle Association of America was formed in 1988. It joins the British White societies of Great Britain and Australia in promoting and registering the polled British White cattle of the world.
Registry and Improvement Programs
The British White Cattle Association is headquartered in Bells, TX. The Association provides registrations, resources, and other benefits for members.