History of White Park Cattle

(Adapted from an article by G.L.H. Alderson)

It is a standard procedure when writing the history of a breed to
claim that the origins of the breed are lost in the mists of time. In
reality very few breeds have a history of more than 200 - 300 years,
but the White Park can claim with confidence to be a truly ancient
breed. In historical texts it was sometimes referred to as ‘White
Forest’, but should not be confused with the similarly marked, but
hornless, British White.

Druids and Celts
The earliest references to cattle of White Park type are found in the
pre-Christian Irish epics, such as 'Tain Bo Cualgnel (The Cattle
Raid of Cooley), where white cattle with coloured points were often
mentioned as a special and choice breed. With the arrival of the
Romans, the Druids were pushed to the northern and western
fringes of Britain and into Ireland. It is in these areas that the old
herds (pre-sixteenth century) of White Park cattle were found,
although none remain in Ireland.

White Park Cattle in Wales

Other early references to White Park cattle occur in Wales. The
Laws of Hywel Dda measure fines and payments in numbers of
white cattle with coloured points, similar to the earlier Irish
customs. In the Dimetian Code of Laws it is recorded that fines
were paid to the Lords of Dynevor in these cattle. Dynevor Castle
was the military and political centre of Wales for five centuries, and
the Princes of South Wales ruled from Dynevor Castle from about
800 AD. In 1210 AD the wife of William de Breos (Brecon) tried
unsuccessfully to appease King John with a gift of a bull and four
hundred cows of White Park colour.

Emparked Herds

Several herds were emparked in various parks in Britain in the
thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and the historical
associations of some of these ancient herds are perpetuated in the
current Herd Book. The Dynevor and Cadzow herds are ancient
herds that continue today. The Chillingham herd continues, but it is
a feral unit and is not included in the modern breed. The Chartley
and Drumlanrig herds are both of ancient origin, but were
dispersed in 1905 and 1780 respectively before being re-
established in recent years.

White Park Cattle in Recent Times
The breed reached its most endangered position following the
Second World War. During the War the White Park was considered
by the Government to be sufficiently important as a part of the
British heritage for a small unit to be shipped to the U.S.A. for safe
keeping. During the 1960's only four domesticated and recorded
herds remained, namely the Dynevor, Cadzow, Woburn and
Whipsnade herds.

The current series of Herd Books were collated from 1972 onwards,
and full records on all animals have been maintained since that
time. However, detailed records had been maintained in some
herds for a much longer period. The breed is officially recognised
in the EEC, and animals have been exported to North America,
Australia, Denmark and France.

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