The Galloway breed is unique in that it the oldest of the British breeds, but it is also recognised as the oldest known polled beef bred- although some sources point to some early stock being horned. Earliest records date back to the 1600's. It developed in Scotland in the Galloway region and emerged from a range of native stock, explaining the range of coat colours, although black was the most prominent in the breed's history. As the breed emerged in a region known for its rough environmental conditions, today Galloway cattle are known for their hardiness and adaptability.
Galloway coat colour may be black, dun or red, while Belted Galloways will have a white belt circling the girth of the body (midriff). This specialised strain was developed by crossing Galloways with belted Dutch cattle and is better known for its milking qualities. White Galloways, as the name suggests are white, but will have coloured markings (black, dun or red) on the ears, nose, tail or feet. Miniature Galloways will possess matching breed traits to Galloways, however they are shorter in height. Miniature Galloways may be solid in colour, belted, or white. The breed is considered to have a decent life span and is especially valuable in composite breeding programs.
Galloways are also well known for their distinctive double coat of hair, which helps them to endure and adapt to harsh climatic conditions. This unique coat is also thought to be beneficial for weight gain. Their superior foraging abilities have also been acknowledged as a special, advantageous trait. The fact that Galloway cattle have ‘non-selective grazing habits' renders them suitable to a wide range of conditions, including marginal environments or high-grade pasture. This trait is also facilitates pasture management.
High carcase yield, matched with desirable quantities of fat cover and heavy muscling make Galloway cattle an attractive breed in the market as both purebreds and crosses.
Galloway females are recognised for their protective nature and capacity to rear calves naturally in diverse environments and conditions. In Australia, Galloway crosses and their calves have survived drought and severe winter climates. Easy calving, impressive fertility, early maturing of meat, flavoursome and well-marbled, healthy beef, and abundance of milk are also characteristic of the Galloway breed.
Galloway cattle first arrived in Australia as far back as 1858 and they were exhibited at the Port Phillip Farmers Society Show. Despite their early arrival, an official registry was not created until 1951. Today, the Australia Galloway Association is responsible for the promotion and maintenance of the Galloway, Belted Galloway, White Galloway and Miniature Galloway breeds. In 1997, the Galloway Cattle and Beef Marketing Association Inc. was created.
Today, the breed is distributed throughout in the world in locations including the British Isles, Canada, Australia, the USA, New Zealand, Denmark, Austria, Germany, France and South Africa.