What is a British White?

What Makes a British White

British Whites are one of the oldest breeds of cattle native the United Kingdom. Their survival as a pure breed wild cattle from ancient times has made them resilient, hardy and productive. They are considered a rare breed and are on the Rare Breed Trust critical list in Australia and on the watch list of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in the UK.

Naturally polled (no horns), large and gentle natured the British White has the uncommon characteristic of being both a beef and milking cow.

A white coat on blue or dark pigmented skin and black points. A black muzzle, nose, ears, eyelids, teats of cows, legs with a splash of colour on the front of each fetlock, black hooves and a black tongue is desirable.

Some cattle appear in the breed with red points, but still retain the foregoing markings. The body is usually marked with a splash of colour on the neck. Some dollar spots may also appear on the body with breech marks on the back of the hind legs.

10 Characteristics of the British White

The British White, a dual purpose pure breed, with its dark pigmented skin, dark points and strong black hooves is a breed able to naturally withstand all Australian conditions.

These 9 characteristics are great reasons why you should consider the British White for your herd.

1. Moderate Body Size

Fortunately, over the years, British White breeders refrained from chasing huge frame sizes and concentrated on the optimum for most Australian conditions. Generally females are Frame 5 (mature height over the hip of 135cm) and bulls Frame 6 (145cm). Stud breeders continue to concentrate on thickness with fertility, fat cover and milk in the females.

2. Docile

The British White breed is docile with high intelligence, making them excellent to handle, which is important when running bulls in herds.

Calves sired by a British White bull will usually be naturally polled and distinctively colour marked. Polled cattle are safer to handle as there are no horns when working close. Even the most well intentioned cow can cause injury
by accident.

3. Excellent Milking

A calf will grow and add weight based upon its mother’s ability to produce enough rich milk. British White matrons are known for the abundance of rich milk available for their calves. British White cows are excellent mothers and even heifers with their first calf produce much rich milk.

British White cows have well set udders with a minimum of fatty tissue and medium sized teats that hold their shape. It is not uncommon to see 14 and 15 year old cows with udders tightly set and well shaped teats!

4. Meat Eating Quality

The British White, with it’s low input high efficiency traits, is able to convert grass into premium marbled beef of a consistently high grade without excess fat cover.
While some breeds have made a name for themselves marketing their beef, we believe British White beef is as good as the very best, some say better.

5. Growth And Hardiness

After surviving in the wild for thousands of years, British White cattle developed a hardiness that enables them to forage and graze under all kinds of adverse weather conditions. They thrive in either extreme cold or heat.
British White bulls are perfect for cross breeding. They transmit the superior qualities of the breed to all their offspring.

6. Efficient

Sometimes known as an ‘easy keeper’, the British White efficiently converts feed into kilograms of gain or maintenance. With their foraging nature, British Whites will make the most of what is available to eat in their environment. This means there is less reliance on feed, which is a positive trait, as we don’t want to finish cattle on anything other than grass.

7. Trouble Free

Being a relatively unchanged wild cow now domesticated, the British White genetic history is one of survival of the fittest and has given the breed a robust hardiness with little disease problems. They have a natural resistance to tuberculosis and viral pneumonia as an example.

The black ears, eyes, nose, teats and dark pigmented skin reduce the threat of cancers and sun or snow burn, while the strong black hooves deter most feet problems.

Their docile nature, intelligence and natural ability to finish on grass helps reduce time spent on maintaining the herd.

8. Longevity

Perhaps because of the British White breed history or the breeds hardiness, British White cattle tend to lead productive lives for longer. It is not unusual to have a sound breeding matron of 12 plus years.

9. Cross Breeding

British White bulls provide that rare quality of throwing a medium to small calf that grows well.

Don’t be surprised to see delightfully black and white roan calves that thrive. Equally don’t be surprised to see the
first cross calf properly marked.

10. Naturally Polled

Cattle with no horns are easier to handle and while British Whites are well natured, they don’t injure each other, or you, by accident.
OH&S is moving towards dehorning cattle before market, so it makes sense to have no horns to begin with.

Mikklebrae – Alstonville NSW

Breed Standards


The British White is a naturally polled, large and hardy native breed exhibiting the dual characteristics of beef and milking ability.


Must be white with black or red points, viz. Nose, muzzle, pigment round the eyes, ears, teats of cows or rudimentary teats of bulls, hooves and splash or spots of colour on the front of each fetlock. The skin showing dark pigmentation.


Free from slugs or rudimentary horns. It should be of a fair length from eyes to muzzle, which should be broad. The heads of bulls should be masculine in character and of cows, fine and feminine.


Body Conformation

Animals should be functional and free moving on sound feet, with a long level top line, not rising at the root of the tail, broad and expanding over loins to hips, pin bones well apart especially in the bulls.

The shoulders gently sloping and well set in, the ribs well sprung. The underline should be level. The hindquarters long from hook to pin, buttocks being well fie shed down to the hocks, which when viewed from the back, should be straight, turning neither inwards or outwards .


Level well developed but not pendulous, the teats of moderate size, set evenly and pointing to the ground. It
is important that the rudimentary teats of bulls should be wide set and developed.


Should be fine and handle well.


Guidelines for Purchasing British White Cattle

To avoid confusion and unnecessary disappointment please consider the following points if you are purchasing British White Cattle in Australia.

1 Registration

Ensure the animal is registered with The British White Cattle Society of Australia Limited ACN 051 599 449 (“the Society”).

The Society is the original British White Cattle Society. Originally formed in NSW in March 1983 the Society was incorporated and registered with ASIC in 1991.

The Society is aware of other groups in Australia breeding and registering British White cattle and prospective members of the society must be aware that cattle registered with other groups are not necessarily registered with our Society (unless registered with the society first). The Society has a “once registered with our Society, always registered with our Society” herd recording scheme.

2. Grade

The Society had the following grading of cattle up until 1995 A, B, C and D grades (D being a first cross). In 1995 this was changed to AP, A, B and C (C being a first cross) meaning 4 crosses to the first level of purity.

This upgrading system has been and could still be affected by such things as hornedness, scurs, colour variation and unknown pedigree details.

3. Robertsonian Translocation

Some British White cattle may carry a chromosomal abnormality known as Robertsonian Translocation (RT). This means that may carry 58 or 59 chromosomes instead of the normal 60. The Society’s website has a summary of the possible effects of RT on cattle. Chromosome status can affect registration requirements and potentially fertility.

4. Showing

The Society has a Standard of Excellence for the showing of British White cattle at Royal and other agricultural shows, which must be adhered to.

5. Some General Guidelines to consider:

  1. Check the animal is registered with the Society and ask to view the Registration Certificate(s). We strongly advise against purchasing unregistered animals but if you do so, at least ask to see the Registration Certificates of the parents.
  2. Check the animal(s) ear tattoo in a head bail. The tattoo should be in the animal’s near-side ear.
  3. Enquire about the Chromosome status. The Chromosome status should be shown on the Registration Certificate. A 60T means the animal has been tested and found to be “normal”, 59T or 58T indicates the animal has been tested and found to carry the Translocation. 60D means the animal has 60 Chromosomes through inheritance. 59D means the animal has 59 chromosomes through inheritance. If the Chromosome status is not shown on the Registration Certificate you should assume it is unknown and hence offspring of such animals may be subject to registration restrictions or special requirements.
  4. The Vendor should complete a Transfer Form within one month of sale and send it to the Society for processing with the relevant fee. The Vendor may also provide you with the Registration Certificate on purchase but a new Certificate with the purchaser’s name will be issued once the Transfer is processed.
  5. Ask the vendor for pregnancy status (if female). If possibly in calf the Vendor should complete the AI, service or depasture date details on the Transfer Form.
  6. Note the date your animal leaves the vendor’s property.
  7. Ask the vendor about a guarantee for your purchase.
  8. If there are calves at foot eligible for registration ensure they are tattooed before they leave the vendor’s
  9. Be aware that there are other breeds of cattle with similar markings to British White cattle.
  10. Any cattle purchased with British White coloured markings that are not registered with the Society may be classed a BASE cattle or not eligible for registration at all.
  11. Ask for a copy of DNA test reports (if applicable) and clarify whether the animal has a MiP DNA profile or Seeksire DNA profile. The DNA case number & type of profile may be important when registering offspring of the animal.

The Society wants members and prospective members to feel confident in their purchases of British White cattle. Adopt a Buyer Be Aware Policy. Ensure the animal you are purchasing is registered with The British White Cattle Society of Australia Limited and meets with the guidelines outlined above.