Tradition tells us that wild white cattle have wandered over the British Isles since the days of the ancient tribes. The Druids revered white cattle and used them for sacrifices. When the Romans invaded the British Isles, the Druids fled to the remote regions of Ireland, Scotland, and northern Britain, taking their sacred cattle with them.
During this period of chaos, the white cattle scattered and formed new herds that roamed the forests for centuries. They eventually became favorite game animals for the kings of England. When the forests were emparked to restrict hunting privileges to the nobility, the white cattle received their name: White Park.
The aristocrats of England eventually discovered that the cattle living on their parks and estates had uses other than making trophies. Some of the White Parks were tamed, and their milk and beef supplied the tables of many nobles.
After their usefulness was discovered, the White Park herds were handed down for generations and thus became part of the English heritage. The British took great pains to preserve them as World War II approached, with its possible threat of Nazi invasion. A zoo in Toronto received four White Parks in 1938. Some of the offspring of these cattle were distributed to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and the New York Zoological Society in the Bronx.
But the Bronx Zoo was not really interested in keeping domestic cattle on a regular basis. In 1942, they sold their White Parks to the Texas-based King Ranch, where the herd remained for nearly 40 years. The King Ranch kept herd numbers low, usually just a bull and up to 15 cows with calves. Around 1980, a White Park bull was unavailable, so a black Texas Longhorn bull served as herd sire instead.
About this time, the King Ranch was selling many of its cattle, and the White Park herd went to the Moeckley family of Iowa in 1981. They worked to preserve this rare breed, starting by culling the obvious descendants of the Texas Longhorn bull. In the late 1980s, however, they dispersed the herd to a handful of owners interested in continuing the project.
Although conservation efforts are still ongoing, White Park numbers have steadily increased in the United States since then. Small herds exist around the country.
White Park breeders are currently promoting these cattle for grassfed beef purposes. The breed can, however, still produce milk on a small to moderate scale.
White Park cattle have retained much of their natural intelligence over the centuries. They form strong bonds with each other, fiercely protect their calves, and approach unfamiliar situations with extreme caution. To keep them docile, owners must handle them carefully and considerately.
The bulls of this breed are typically quite a handful.
The natural resilience of the ancient White Park has not been lost with time. This breed can stay healthy with minimal intervention.
- Adaptability to most climates.
- Low maintenance requirements.
- Ability to thrive on rough forage without supplemental feed.
- Excellent fertility.
- Easy calving.
- Calf vigor.
- Very strong mothering instinct.
- Moderate milk production.
- Exceptionally tasty, tender beef on grass alone.
- Lean meat.
- Good hybrid vigor when crossed.
- Difficult temperament for beginners.
- Milk production unsuitable for commercial purposes.
- Slow growth.
- Poor prices at sale barns.
Choosing a Breed of Cattle
Is the White Park right for you? This book will help you assess your five needs and make that decision. Includes a brief profile of the White Park breed. Free sample pages are available here.