10 native British cattle breeds and how to recognise them

Agricultural photographer Hollie Crawshaw meets a number of cattle breeds that you can see in the UK countryside today

4th June 2015

10 native British cattle breeds:



The highland cow is a Scottish breed of cattle recognised by their long horns and brown wavy coat. Considered an intelligent and gentle breed, the Highland’s first written evidence of existence dates back to the 12th century. Their meat is low in cholesterol as well as being full of flavour.

Belted Galloway

The Belted Galloway is a polled breed (naturally without horns) with a thick hairy coat, bred through generational selection over a number of years. Although there are numerous colours, each Belted Galloway cow features a white stripe around its middle. The beef sourced from this breed is finished within 30 months and is usually very marbled. The cow is generally well suited for rough grazing land and is long lived.

English Longhorn

Photo credit: Emma Wood

The longhorn is a breed of beef cattle recognised, unsuprisingly, by big long horns, and also sports a brown and white coat. Large in size, the Longhorn is a hardy breed considered a good calving cow with a high milk yield. Originating from Craven in northern England, the cow produces high butter fat contents in its milk, making it good for making butter and cheese products.

Red Poll

The Red Poll is a rust coloured cattle produced in the 19th century by crossing the Norfolk Red beef cow with the Suffolk Dun dairy cow. With its good maternal qualities and fertile traits, the cows breed well and are dual purpose, providing both milk and beef. Photo via Belvoir Ridge Creamery

White Park

The White Park is a very old and traditional breed, dating back to the 13th century. Featuring a white coat with black speckles and large curved horns, the cow has a very distinctive appearance. Finished at round 30 months, the breed produces lean meat with little fat.


Mainly used for meat production, the Hereford cattle are red in colour with a white face and belly. Cows can often weigh up to 550kg and bulls 850kg, making them a hard and strong breed, easily handled because of their very docile temperament. Traditionally used in Herefordshire to work the county's fields, farmers would then sell the cows on for fattening after five or six years. Exports to a variety of countries in 1817 increased the breed’s numbers and they are now common cattle across the globe.

British White

Originating from Lancashire in the 17th century, the polled British White is a medium sized white coloured cow. A docile temperament means it is easily handled. It is known for easy calving, efficient rearing and high quality beef production.


Photo credit: iStock

The Ayreshire originates from the area of Scotland it is named after. Weighing an average of 600kg, the cow is typically white with patches of red or brown. An economic dairy cow, the breed is known for its good quality milk and strong stamina. Ayrshires are now found across most part of the world and their milk is used globally for butter, cheese and milk products.

Aberdeen Angus

The Aberdeen Angus is one of the most famous beef breeds and was developed in the 19th century in Forfarshire, now known as Angus. A medium sized cattle with an all-black coat, the cow is naturally polled. The beef sourced from these cows is firm and lean. The animal itself is good natured, easy to calve and regularly used in crossbreeding.

South Devon

The South Devon cow is a lightly coloured brown cattle originating from Devon and Cornwall. Bred since the 16th century, the cow has great beef qualities and maternal characteristics. The South Devon's coat is curly, with ears set forward, and they are known for fast growth and early maturity. Producing lean marbling meat, the breed are widely used for beef and finished at around 15 months with an average weight of 560kg. Image via photos.haramiweb.com


You are currently reading: 10 native British cattle breeds and how to recognise them - 4th June
Get your first 5 issues for just £5 when you subscribe to BBC Countryfile magazine!

Subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine today and you can enjoy generous savings from the shop price plus, free UK delivery and discounts off special editions and back issues.

Countryfile Magazine - Current Issue