Origin of Breed
White Park cattle have been mentioned throughout history. They are found in old Irish sagas dating back almost 2,000 years and in Welsh law, which was formulated at Dynevwr Castle in Deheubarth by a series of rulers from 856 to 1197 AD. Herds date back to the thirteenth century and before, when herds in England and Scotland were enclosed in hunting chases.
In the early 1800's, there were more than a dozen pure White Park herds, though most were exterminated by the turn of the century. The registration program for While Park cattle was started in the early 1900s, but lapsed with the outbreak of World War II in the 1940's. In the late 1980’s, breeders decided to form a new organization incorporated in Montana called the Ancient White Park Cattle Society of North America.
The White Park is moderately framed and white with colored points including the ears, nose, rims of eyes, teats and feet but excluding the tail switch. The upper portion of the tongue should be black while underneath is most often pink. The intensity of these markings varies from herd to herd. White Park cattle are horned.
Mature bulls weigh approximately 2,100 lbs. while mature White Park cows weigh around 1,400 lbs.
The White Park is a large, slow growing breed that is known for their longevity. They provide high quality lean meat and are hardy, surviving easily on rough forage with no shelter. The cows are known to have virtually no birthing difficulties. White Park is now considered a beef breed and selected for those traits but historically they were considered dual purpose since some herds have been used for milk production.
Development in America
In the late 1930s one or two pairs of White Park cattle were imported to Canada. Their offspring eventually made its way to the Bronx Zoo. Shortly after receiving the White Park cattle, the Bronx Zoo determined they did not have facilities to house the wild cattle for the long term. The zoo contacted the King Ranch and a deal was made which allowed four of the animals to be moved to Texas where they remained for nearly 40 years. When the White Park herd was to be sold, Mr. & Mrs. John Moeckly of Polk City, Iowa purchased the White Parks. In the 1970's, White Park cattle were imported to both Canada and the US and semen has been imported to both countries also.
Currently the breed is found in Britain, the United States, Germany, Denmark, Australia and Canada with the current status as critical. The White Park’s breeding population was less than 50 animals in the U.S. and the worldwide population was approximately 500 purebred females in 79 herds, plus bulls and young stock. An on-going breeding program has been put into place to help ensure the breed's survival.
Ancient White Park cattle in North America have made some large strides in the last 20 years. In 1989, there were fewer than 20 purebred females of breeding age on the North American continent. In 2010, there will be over 600 calves born as the population continues to grow.
Registry and Improvement Programs
The Ancient White Park Cattle Society of North America is headquartered in Big Timber, MT. The Association provides registrations, transfers, performance data, sales and member services.