As autumn comes in and the cattle begin to lean upon me for additional feeding, it’s fun to rediscover the differences between belted galloways and riggit galloways. The two breeds are often lumped together as “the same animal with different markings”, but I’ve found a wealth of examples to show how different they really are.
As I drive up the hill with a load of bales and turnips, it’s always the belted galloways who come first and ram the trailer with enthusiasm. They shove and scrum to take the best, and I begin to realise that it’s not simple greediness. Looking at their bellies, it’s obvious that they’re emptier and require feed more urgently. And that’s perhaps in part because they’re altogether bigger animals – my belted galloways stand a good six or eight inches taller at the shoulder than my riggits; they’re inherently leaner and leggier, and that seems to take more feeding. They also lose condition much faster than my riggits did, and it’s interesting to see hips beginning to show on my belties while the riggits are still buried in blubber.
Belted galloways are excellent animals, and farmers are often delighted to realise how cheap and easy it is to keep out wintered native cattle breeds. But this is often because they’re used to dealing with commercial breeds, and anything less than “high-octane” can feel like a pleasant relief. But I’m starting to think that riggits represent an even lower gear beneath belted galloways – they require even less feed and human support than belties do.
Read old books about cattle and you’ll often see galloways being described as “thrifty” – they can make do with very little at all. Belted galloways are thrifty, right enough – but I’m starting to realise that riggits are thriftier still.