Ancient White Park CattleAngelique2021-07-22T20:43:48+00:00
1200 – 2000 lbs
Can be aggressive
Ancient feral British cattle, maintain feral streak, athletic, lean
ANCIENT WHITE PARK CATTLE
Horned, white cattle have been documented in Britain since the 13th century, with several ancient herds still in existence from that time. They were bred and used for ceremonial purposes during the pre-Christian era. In the centuries that followed, herds of feral cattle became scattered throughout England, Scotland, and Wales, and were hunted as trophy animals. Some of the herds were enclosed into deer parks, such as those at Cadzow, Chartley, Chillingham, Dynevor, and Vaynol, though most cattle were free to roam.
Ancient White Park Cattle
As their habitat was gradually reduced, the free-roaming cattle disappeared, leaving only the “park” animals as representatives of the ancient type. Blood typing has demonstrated the importance of conserving Ancient White Parks since remarkable genetic distance exists between this breed and all other domestic cattle. This is due to the breed’s long isolation and the limited role of human selection in its development.
In 1918, the Park Society was formed to promote these historic cattle and identified nine herds of horned cattle and six herds of polled cattle in its first herd book. British White cattle were originally included, but were reclassified as a separate breed in 1946. Many of the park cattle were eventually re-domesticated, selected for beef production, and crossbred. A few of the herds were conserved as pure stocks and were the foundation strains for today’s Ancient White Park. The breed attracted conservation efforts in the 1970s and became the emblem for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, a sister organization to The Livestock Conservancy based in the U.K.
Ancient White Park cattle came to North America during World War II. They were evacuated as part of a British program that sent national treasures to America for safekeeping. The cattle went first to the Bronx Zoo and then to the King Ranch in Texas, where they were maintained as a closed herd for 40 years. The cattle were dispersed in the 1980s, and several conservation herds were established in the United States and Canada. Breeders formed the Ancient White Park Cattle Society of North America to monitor the status of the population, which by 2008 had reached nearly 300 breeding animals. These North American breeders have an important role to play in conserving some genetic variants that are now rare or have disappeared in the British population.
Ancient White Park cattle are athletic and lean in appearance. The mature cows can weigh from 1200 to 1800 pounds by the age of 4 to 5 years while bulls can reach 1800 to 2000 pounds at the same age. The light-colored, black-tipped horns curve out and then up in a “u” shape. The breed is known for its “white park” color pattern with the coat being white accompanied by black or red eye rings, ears, nose, feet, and teats. Many of the animals have dark skin, and some have small speckles of black or blue scattered on the coat. A few individuals are born solid black or red. Historically, these were culled, though they are being maintained now as a source of additional diversity to the breed.
The Ancient White Park breed shouldn’t be confused with the American White Park, a polled beef breed developed in the U.S. after WWII, or the polled dual-purpose British White. These three populations are quite dissimilar in appearance, history, and use. The original White Park breed is called the Ancient White Park to emphasize its distinctiveness.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.