The Roman Legions occupied England in B.C. and stayed there for 400 years. During this time both the Romans and the native Britons maintained white cattle for sacrificial purposes.
Rome withdrew from the island in 407 AD, tribal warfare and chaos followed the departure of the legions and continued until 1066. During this period the white cattle escaped into the wilderness and reverted to a wild condition. For 700 years they were regarded as wild game animals and were hunted as such. During this 700 years “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest controlled the existence of White cattle. Mother nature decided which animal lived and which one died and which one reproduced.
The cattle that survived in each generation were superior - nature killed the others, she does not compromise. The basic qualities of hardiness, livability, disease resistance, fertility and feed efficiency enabled a part of each generation to survive and reproduce themselves. These basic traits of functional efficiency became more bred-in and more firmly established with each succeeding generation.
In 1066 England was conquered and occupied by the Normans. Various kings during the 12th and 13th centuries awarded large land grants to the church and to members of their court. Such grants or estates were “emparked”, enclosed by high fences or walls of stone. This was done to exclude poacher (the previous owners who had been dispossessed) and to confine and control as many game animals as possible inside the “Parks”. White cattle were so “emparked” along with the deer and other game animals.
For another 800 years the Park cattle, inside the parks, existed just as they did before emparkment. No effort was made to interfere with nature’s process. The cattle lived and progressed on their own merit - or they died and did not reproduce. The surplus was hunted and killed each year. They gradually became prized possessions and status symbols and were bequeathed to the owners’ descendants just as were the estates, the family jewels, the mink coats, the skeletons in the closets and other traditional items. By mutual agreement, the few owners of Park cattle retained them closely and their sale and wider distribution was prevented! For about 700 years, until 1800, the cattle lived and propagated inside the “Parks” just as they had for the preceding 1000 years in the wilderness. When domestication and selective breeding started, the cattle were the result of 1500 years of natural selection. Traits of survival, hardiness, fertility, disease resistance, and the ability to live were bred-in and made stronger each generation. The weak and marginal animals did not survive.
In 1919 the first British White Park Registry Association was formed. In 1940, one bull and five cows were sent to the United States as seedstock in event of a Nazi invasion of England. In about 1960 all Park cattle in the custody of the U.S Government were sold to the public.
A very few Park cattle had been brought to this country before this date. By whom and when is not fully known. Such cattle, along with those sold by the U.S. Government, are the of all Park cattle in this country. There have been very recent imports of a few cattle.
A group of breeders formed the White Park Cattle Association of America in 1975. In the late 80’s, probably 1987 or 1988, some members broke away from the WPCAA and formed the British White Cattle Association of America. In 1999 the WPCAA and many breeders of the BWCAA reunited to form the American British White Park Association.
It is the long period of natural development, as a known and specific breed, that has given the White cattle their genetic bred-in superiority of functional efficiency.