Conserving and promoting colour varieties of the old traditional Welsh cattle

The ideal, colourful cattle

Ancient Cattle of Wales are ideally suited to thrive on the highlands and moorlands of Wales.  They are extremely hardy beasts and do well in any environment.  In winter, their long-haired coats and natural resistance to cold and wet conditions help them overwinter outside in the most inclement of Welsh weather.

Originally a dual purpose animal, the modern-day breed is an excellent beef animal.  They are a medium sized animal, usually weighing 600-800 kg., producing a high-quality carcass with tender, well-flavoured meat.  The cattle do well on less-favoured grassland and can be finished purely on pasture.  They are ideal conservation grazers.

They make excellent mothers with minimal calving and rearing problems and their hardy nature facilitates low-input husbandry.  ACW cattle make an ideal herd for upland farmers, smallholders and those looking for a heritage breed.


These are the standard colours that the Society endeavours to conserve and promote as the Ancient Cattle of Wales. 


Together with the Belted, this is the most popular of the unofficial colours of Welsh cattle.  It is certainly the one with the longest history.  Originally cattle with red ears were favoured.  Today the majority of Welsh White cattle have black ears, although individuals with recessive red ears still occur.  This colour was at one time more common in South Wales than in the North. 


This colour pattern, which may be found in both black and red, is the one that is most open to criticism of not being of true Welsh origin.  It certainly originated in North Wales, probably at Nannau, where Sir Robert Vaughan imported cattle, presumably of the Lakenfelder type, early in the nineteenth century.


This is still the commonest colour, other than black, among Welsh cattle.  It regularly appears among herds up and the down the country including even in many pedigree ones.  So far, there has been little interest in breeding red cattle, which breed true as the colour is recessive.  There seems to be little danger of the colour disappearing in the near future.  In Welsh cattle, the red is very bright, and quite different from the deep rich red of the Devon.


If white cattle with coloured ears are mated with black or red animals, and the resulting progeny are subsequently also mated to black or red animals, line-backed calves will be thrown in one or two generations.  The line-back pattern is the dark extreme of the colour gradient of which the white animal with coloured ears is the light extreme.  In North Wales, this relationship is accentuated by the tendency to blue colouring in both white and line-backed Welsh cattle.

Blue (Grey)

Blue Welsh cattle are traditionally supposed to be superior milkers to Welsh Blacks.  Undoubtedly this belief arose after Shorthorn bulls had been used in some Welsh herds.  The Blue Albion breed was formed in Derbyshire by crossing imported Welsh Black cows with white or roan Shorthorn bulls.  Some blue Welsh cattle may indeed owe their colour to a Shorthorn cross in the past, but the colour was recorded among Welsh cattle before the introduction of Shorthorns, and in North Wales there is a close relationship between the white, line-backed and blue varieties.

Smokey / Mouse

This colour, also known as mouse-coloured and smokey-faced, was common at one time in the Lleyn Peninsula and in those districts of Breconshire, Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire adjoining the English border.  The latter group was bred using Hereford and Shorthorn bulls, but the colour still occurs as a recessive in Welsh Black herds, though less commonly than red.

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