The British White is a breed that distinguishes itself in both the quality of its meat and the efficiency it offers ranchers, with good feed conversion, fertility, and ease of calving. The British White is one of the few breeds that can be traced in history for centuries and has a successful record for producing quality meat. It is this distinguished history that sets it apart from other breeds, and allows ranchers the peace of mind of knowing everything there is to know about the breed they raise.
The history of British White Cattle can be traced back to the Roman Empire. While it is difficult to determine whether the breed was imported by the Romans or was indigenous to the islands, both Britons and the Romans kept white cattle as sacrifices. When the Romans left Britain around 407 A.D., the white cattle were released into the wild, where they lived as wild creatures for more than 1,000 years. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the countryside of England was divided into estates, and each estate was fenced. The white cattle in each estate were then restricted from roaming too far, but they were otherwise left alone to live wild until the 1800s.
It was only in the nineteenth century that British White Cattle were herded, and selective breeding began to produce the biggest and best cattle. The advantages of the breed, then, lay chiefly in the fact that natural selection had perforce hardened the breed against all that nature could throw at it. The result was a hardy breed of cattle that could survive on forage and reproduce enough to maintain itself. Selective breeding only enhanced these attributes, allowing the strongest bulls to pass on the strongest genes. The British White was also milked commercially, and regularly won milking competitions against other breeds.
The Breed was brought to North America sporadically before World War Two, but records are sketchy on the actual numbers. It is said that the breed was selected for preservation by British Prime Minister Churchill, who in 1940 sent five cows and one bull to America in case England was invaded by Germany. Most of the herds in the United States have stemmed from this breeding stock and from imported semen, with very few recent imports of live cattle. (Editor note: This is a handed down quote that is a bit confusing to this editor and one he has been unable to document from an original source. The UK BWCS web site history says the Park Cattle Society was split in 1946 and the polled cattle became known as British White. This indicates there was not a breed know as British White before 1946. This editor has not seen the original source but has been told there exists an entry in the Park Cattle herdbook of cattle being exported to Canada about this time.)
Because of its long history, the British White has a number of characteristics that make it an ideal breed choice for beef producers. The thousand-plus years it spent living wild helped the British White to become fertile and easy calvers, while strong milking ability allows cows to raise their calves to impressive weights before weaning. The meat is lean and tender, often more than 90% select and choice grade, and the breed has an impressive carcass to live weight ratio. The British White is truly a breed proven by history.
Edited from Morris Halliburton