Where Does the Belt Come from?
Researched and compiled by Russell Bueling


The earliest reference to belted cattle that I have found was in Bohemia. A Mr. Casmos Pregensis, who lived from 1045 to 1125, stated that these cattle existed in Bohemia in the 9th century. His description is that the Duke plows with two Oxen.  One Ox is belted with a white face and the white feet. The other is white along the back and has white feet. This description of cattle omits to say what their color was, merely mentioning the white markings. But, whether the basic color was black or red, both colors are in existence today.

In this same book that I have read there is also a picture of a painting which is named “The Adoration of the Child” that was painted by the Masters of the Albrecht Altars about 1430. The painting depicts a belted Ox kneeling before the altar.

Among domesticated animals, belting also occurs in the goat, the pig, and the horse. It also occurs in the mouse, the rat, the guinea pig, and the rabbit. There are eight breeds of belted pigs in Europe, of which they believe five are related.  However, the belting pattern in pigs is no new development, as the writer of this book, a Mr. H.R. Davidson, says that he has seen paintings of belted pigs that date as far back as 1339. Belting has also occurred in wild animals, as it occurs in the Malayan Tapir and in the giant panda as well as in some birds.

Lord David Stewart, a British writer, who had traveled widely all over the world, wrote about various breeds that carried the belting gene. In one of his books there is a chapter on Mongolian cattle, which sometimes turn up with a belt. In Mongolia, where presumably descendants of the Imperial Park cattle most likely are found, belted cattle do appear. Belted cattle have been found in both inner and outer Mongolia, leading clear into Tibet. These cattle are red or a drab sort of a brown and often have white markings on the head, belly, and feet.

In Siberia, there are many Holstein breeds and among them occur belted animals. Thus belted cattle do exist, but their origin is unknown. Since they appear in Siberia in Holstein breeds, one might suppose that they are derived from Holland and are representative of the Dutch Lakenvelders. Yet, Dr. Ivan Dauva, the agricultural attaché, at the Russian embassy in London, said that Holsteins have only been in Siberia for some 50 years, which does not account for the vast number of sheeted cattle which have been in Siberia since 1793. The Dutch say that they can tell a lot of Holstein blood as the Dutch Belted cow will always have a black tongue and the Holstein has a pink tongue.

In Switzerland, the two main breeds of cattle are the Simmental and the Braunvieh. Nearly 30% of all Simmental cattle carry some form of a belt. The Braunvieh is known to us as the Brown Swiss. Braun means brown and veh means cow, or cattle.  There is also a deviation of these cattle known as the Gurtenveh. Gurtenveh is a German word which means Girdled or Belted. At one time quite a few of the Brown Swiss carried a belt. However, after the Brown Swiss) Breeders' Association (Switzerland) was formed, it was decided not to recognize any animals that had white markings. Since all the bulls had to be registered with the government, no one was permitted to use a belted bull. Still, by 1964 there were belted cattle in parts of Switzerland, Austria and Southern Germany, especially in the districts of St. Gallen, Attenzell and Lichtenstein as the belting characteristics were still throwing belted calves, though the herd book authorities were doing their best to stamp it out. However, since belted cows can only be mated with brown bulls, the eventual extinction of the Gurtenveh is inevitable.

David Low, who was a professor of Agriculture at Edinburgh University in Scotland, wrote a book on various belted cattle in Great Britain, which was published in 1842. In this book he described the sheeted breed of cattle in England called Sommerset. He says that it has existed in the same parts of England from time immemorial. They are mostly red and white, and he says that the hair has a yellowish tint and the white passes over the back like a sheet or a blanket. He also states that the cattle appear hardy and were usually polled, but sometimes were horned. He also states that the cattle are hardy, docile and well suited to dairy. Different writers speak of the Sommerset cows of the West of England, but say that because of the cattle plague that struck England in the latter part of the 1800’s these cattle became extinct by the end of the century.

In the county of Wales, there are the Bolian Gwynion cattle, which are better known to us as Welsh Blacks. Lord Stewart writes that there are records in the fair books in Pembroke Wales from 1600 to 1602 that describe the Welsh Cattle.  At that time there were several colors of Welsh cattle which were later molded into what are known today as Welsh Blacks.
In 1842 Professor Low mentions that the belted cattle were not confined to anyone breed that was in existence at that time.  A Mr. Bryner Jones, a former Welsh Secretary to the ministry of agriculture in his papers, which are in the National Library in Wales, refers to the sheeted, belted, or Welsh striped cow.  These cattle are mentioned in several writings at that time, so it is known that belted cattle did exist.

When Lord Stewart visited Wales in 1961, he mentions that he still found several herds that had belted animals in them, and on a farm near the town of Dalellau, he saw 15 belted cows in one herd of Welsh Black cattle. However, since the Welsh government registers all of the cattle there they will not allow the registry of any animal that has any white markings, so the belted variety has pretty much died out.

According to David Low, the belting characteristic used to be quite frequent among Galloway cattle in their early development. Many of the belted Galloway herds today seem to go back to blood from a herd in Northern England, Lady Melville, who had several farms and encouraged her tenants to breed them true to the belted color. These seem to have found their way into Scotland and were crossed with the Galloway cattle of southwest Scotland by several breeders about the time the cattle improvement was started in that part of the world.

The belted cattle from Northumberland, were said to be bigger framed than the black Galloway cattle and less wild, but just as hardy, and better milkers; though their hair was not so long and silky. In my observations, after seeing about 25 herds of Belted Galloway, I think that this also is true today. This leads me to believe that the Belted Galloway as we know them today, do carry blood of Dutch Lakenvelders back in their ancestry.

The last trip that I made to Scotland was in 1983 and I visited about 15 of the more prominent herds of Belted Galloway cattle and I also attended the Royal Highland show at Edinburgh where the belted Galloway cattle were shown in fairly large numbers. Most of the herds that I saw seemed to be breeding quite true to color, but they were of a fairly small frame size and were quite short of leg.

In Holland there is a breed of cattle named the Lakenvelder. Like us the Dutch do not know the origin of their belted cattle, or their history before the 18th century. They call them Lakenvelders, a name derived from Laken, and sheet or veld, a field, from the notion that the cattle have a sheet or blanket wrapped around them. The meaning of the name seems to be Field of Blankets or blanketed field. The first record of these beasts in Holland is given by historian J. Herkhey, who writes:  In 1796 he saw an entire herd of 15 or 16 cows and a bull in a field near the Bishopric of Utrecht. And it has to be assumed that there were Lakenvelder cattle in Holland as early as the 17th century, and that they were produced by selective breeding. It is believed that there was a hereditary characteristic for belting cattle and that this was fostered by selective breeding.

The Lakenvelder cattle were found mostly in about three districts in Holland. A cattle plague that struck Europe in the late 1880’s was largely responsible for reducing the numbers of Lakenvelder cattle in Holland. After the loss of thousands of Holland’s cattle, many Holstein Friesian cattle were imported in Holland, mainly from Germany and Denmark. Since the Friesian breed were larger cattle and gave more milk the government took over the registry of the cattle and would not allow but pure Friesian bulls to be used.

In an attempt to preserve the breed for posterity, Mr. E. VanMuilwijk founded the Lakenvelder herd book in July 1918, when he estimated that there were about 300 Lakenvelder cattle left in Holland in the hands of some 12 to 15 breeders. It was believed in Holland that the Friesian cattle were a superior breed to all dairy breeds, and that it was the only breed that could not be improved by cross breeding. The claim was that you could cross a Holstein Friesian with any other dairy breed and that the resulting cross would give less milk than a purebred Friesian. However, quite a few of the farmers did cross their Friesian cows with the Lakenvelders and the farmers of that time said that many of their Friesian cows did carry Lakenvelder blood. It has been reported that by 1961, there were only three breeders of Lakenvelder cattle left in Holland and that the government demands that only Friesian bulls could be used had a detrimental effect on the ones that were left.

The Lakenvelder cattle were imported into America in 1838 by D. H. Haight of Goshen, New York. Other importations were made by P.T. Barnum and a Mr. H. W. Coleman of Cornwall, Pennsylvania and from these three importations almost all of the Dutch Belted cattle of America were descended. When the breed was imported in to America, they went by the name of Dutch Belted, presumably as a lot of people could not remember the word Lakenvelder. In 1886, the Dutch Belted Cattle Association was formed. And by 1901, these cattle were distributed into 26 states.  By 1916 there were 1500 Dutch Belted cattle in the breed registry. The breed literature at that time described them as a little smaller than a Friesian, but larger than a Guernsey, and likened them in appearance and size to an Ayrshire. This literature went on to say, compared with the Friesian; the Dutch Belts were a little finer in the muzzle and a trifle more prominent at the poll. With horns wider spread and more uniformly turned upwards at the points. Their birth weights were given at from 60 to 90 pounds and mature cows weigh from 900 to 1500 pounds with the average for cows being 1200 pounds.

A great deal was done for the breed by Mr. J.A. Wilson from Maine; Dr. J.G. Dupuis from Florida; and Mr. T. Simpson from Iowa; who were largely responsible for the early advanced registrations of the cattle. Unfortunately, as a result of wartime difficulties and death of some of the breeders, registrations became somewhat neglected and by 1957 the association listed only 20 members. This association became inactive, so in April 1988 a new association was formed which is called the White Belt Cattle Association. This new association also registers cattle of the Gurtenveh and Sommerset blood, so they register cattle that are Black belted, red belted or brown belted.

Belting has also been known to occur in some of the Zebu cattle. I have personally seen three Brahman steers in a feed lot near Mesa, Arizona that carried full belts and were of brown color. I have also seen pictures of belted cattle from the Shetland Islands.

So, it seems that certain breeds carry the belting gene and it is stronger in some breeds than others. It seems to be quite a dominant gene and sometimes will carry on for generations after no belted animals have been used. In a later issue I will describe how the BueLingo cattle were formed and what their background is.

Sometime in the late 1950’s, I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Russell Danielson, who has been connected with the Animal Science Department of North Dakota State University. Mr. Danielson has a very good knowledge of beef cattle and is perhaps one of the most sought after judges in the nation. He is a man that I had a lot of respect for and I admired him.  We became close friends and so he was the man I went to for advice when I wanted the challenge of developing my idea of the perfect cow for my needs.

We decided to research the merits of the breeds that we could use to produce our color pattern. I wanted the cow to have a distinguished look. Something that you would be attracted to, not only for her beauty but that she would attract attention.  We studied the characteristics of the Lakenvelder. The literature on them was quite scarce. Mr. Danielson went to the college library and sent me quite a bit of information on the breed. We noted that they were a very docile breed and extremely fertile. We also noted that they had a very strong gene for belting. I did locate a man in Miami, Florida who was their secretary at the time by the name of James Hendrie. He sent me some promotional material and a list of breeders.  They were few and far between. I also made a trip to Scotland in 1983 to see if the belted Galloway cattle could be of any help to us. Mainly I was interested in them because of their polled heads. I also went up into Canada to a town called Swift Current where a man had imported the Grand Champion Belted Galloway bull from the national show in Edinburgh, Scotland. I came to the conclusion that all of the Belted Galloway cattle that I saw were too small, too short legged, too wild disposition and had too poor hindquarters to be very useful to me. The man at Swift Current had eight yearling bulls for sale that were sired by this herd bull and seven of them had white on their feet. I lost interest in using the Belted Galloway and after considerable searching; I located a man from Purdue University that steered me onto a bull on a dairy farm in northern Indiana near the town of Goshen. He was a registered Lankenvelder bull and was five years old. The man agreed to sell him to me, so I purchased him. This bull turned out to be an excellent breeder and did us a lot of good. He was the bull that we called Freightrain of Flying Cross. He was sired by an A.I. bull named Davie B of Tillamook who was owned and used in a Dutch Belt Dairy in Tillamook, Oregon.

Freightrain was not a large bull, weighing about 1500 pounds at five years of age. He was a very docile bull and very easy to handle. We decided to use him on both Angus and some thick Shorthorn X Limousin cows. We figured the Angus cow was a very good cow to use, on account of her polled head, and there was a good selection within the breed to pick from.  Through my dealings with Mrs. Alice Blazer of Tillamook, Oregon, I learned of Mr. Alfred Ostrum from Reed Point, Montana. I made a trip to meet him and this was the start of another very good friendship and partnership. We became close friends, and I had a lot of close dealings with the Ostrums.

Bernice Ostrum was a lady with a keen eye for cattle and loved animals. Each of the cows they had, had a special meaning to her and she could recall the history and record of all of them. Some few years before I got to know her, she had purchased two Dutch Belted heifer calves from the dairy at Tillamook to grow out and use as ranch milk cows. The calves were shipped out to her in crates from Tillamook to Big Timber and she raised them. The Ostrums were raising Angus cattle and used Angus bulls on these two cows and usually always got belted calves from this cross. Alfred, Bernice and I worked closely together after this, as we seemed to have the same desires and interests.

They decided at that time that they would like to have a belted bull to use on the belted cows and heifers that Bernice had started from the two cows, so they got a son of Freightrain from me and I later delivered several more bulls to them.  At this time, I purchased one of the best calves we had in their herd out there and brought him to use on our Freightrain daughters. He turned out to be quite a good bull and was named Big Sky of Flying Cross. Since he had an Angus mother and our cows were mostly all half-bloods, we did not get belted calves, but kept selecting the ones that most closely fit our ideals.

By this time, a close working relationship had developed between myself and the Ostrums.  We decided to correlate our efforts and strive for the same goal.  A lot of switching went on between the two herds. I would make two trips to Big Timber each year; one in June to help with the branding of the calves and one in the fall when we would be switching cattle around. About that time, we had a single brand recorded in both states to simplify things. The Ostrum Ranch in Montana is between the towns of Reed Point and Big Timber. Interstate Highway I-90 crosses Bridger Creek at the ranch, and here in North Dakota, one of our pastures runs about a mile along a state highway, so the cattle attract a lot of attention by passersby.  They are not only noticed, but people like what they saw.  We would have many people that would look us up to ask about the cattle, some from as far away as Italy and South Africa and many states.

We were soon selling calves into a wide area. Those that purchased cattle were pleased with them and wanted more. Our cattle were getting a good reputation. Word passed that the BueLingo cattle at Sheldon, ND was the only herd with records in our state that produced four 100% calf crops in a row. This was also about the time that Russ Danielson and I decided that the University would start to record the pedigrees of our cows. So a pedigree form was developed and all of the cows that met our standards were identified with tags and tattoos and records of production were kept on all of the animals in both herds.

The herd prefix on our herd here was The Flying Cross, as this is our brand and the name of our Sandhill Ranch. We registered the Montana herd under the prefix of Bridger Creek, as the ranch was located there. Bernice knew the history of each animal, and we could determine their age by the Brucellosis tags and they were all tagged, tattooed, named and registered at that time. This relationship continued for sometime until Alfred’s health started to fail and Bernice was unable to care for the cattle.  The two herds were then merged into the Flying Cross and were all registered under that prefix from then on.

When a lot of these calves that were sent out started to reproduce, applications for pedigrees started coming in from all over.  So, Mr. Danielson and I thought we had reached a stage where an official registry should be formed.  I then went to a lawyer who formed a nonprofit corporation for us. I invited all of the owners of BueLingo Cattle to meet at Lisbon, ND.  We adopted rules and by-laws and elected our first board of directors of the BueLingo Cattle Society. Alfred and Bernice were both able to attend.  Since Bernice was the first person to make an effort to develop the cattle, it is fitting that the first part of the BueLingo name, Bue, should relate to her maiden name, Bernice Bue.

By this time, we had quite a few good looking cows that we thought were something that we could work from. They had some traits that we certainly wanted to keep, such as good tight udders and small teats from the dairy blood, the early puberty and fertility, the good birth weights and calving ease and the very docile dispositions. However, in conversation with Mr. Danielson we wanted to increase the frame size and try to increase the muscling of the cattle without losing some of the desirable things that we had accomplished. We had found that some of the daughters that carried the Limousin blood had too nervous a disposition and, so most all of them were eliminated. We gave a lot of thought to using Amerifax breed, but were hesitant because of their Friesian blood.  We may be unable to get rid of the white feet that we were beginning to have a problem with.

The next breed that we considered was the Chianina.  I was very skeptical about them. Though I had not had any experience with them, they had a reputation of being wild and hard to handle. I did not want to lose the docile dispositions that we had, which I was very proud of. The breed did have some real good qualities about them that could be of real benefit to us, such as their very good feet and legs, well balanced bodies and straight lines; and, we thought that they could change the type faster than anything else that we could come up with.  After much discussion with Mr. Danielson, we decided to try some Chianina semen. Mr. Danielson studied the breed and, of course, found that there was quite a bit of difference within the families of the breed, as far as disposition was concerned. So, he selected the bull named Yuma.  Yuma was a grand champion Chianina bull at Denver as a yearling. He was a very large bull that we thought would help to shape up our cattle faster than most.  He was seven-eighths Chianina and one-eighth Angus. He was also polled. I then purchased ten straws of his semen and we thought if he did not meet our expectations, we would not keep any of his offspring.

We got six calves from the ten straws of semen; two of them being heifers and the balance of them were bulls. None of them carried full belts except one bull calf. They had birth weights from 80 to 90 pounds and all were excellent individuals.  We decided to keep the best bull calf of the bunch as he was from a very good cow, though she was a rather small cow.  We named this bull Chilingo of Flying Cross and he did us a lot of good.  He surprised me with his good disposition and when he matured, he weighed 2510 pounds. One of his main contributions was that he eliminated our white foot problems.  We never did get a calf from him that had any white on the feet or switch. He did, however, have some slight scurs and some of his daughters carried scurred heads.

One of the daughters we got from Yuma was a cow that we named Kikanina of Flying Cross. She was a nearly belted cow with excellent confirmation. She was bred to a bull we called Dingo of Flying Cross and produced a bull we named Kikadingo of Flying Cross. He is the best bull we have ever bred and at this time is our herd senior sire. The Chianina blood has really shaped our cattle up, without harming their good dispositions. They have really eliminated the white foot problem.

Quite a few of the half-blood cattle that we had from the Chianina were too large framed, but when crossed back with animals that were too small, turned out about right. Several of the sons of Chilingo turned out to be good sires and have been a good influence on the breed. Some of his sons, such as Chingo, Cowpoke, Chigore, Chertwell, and Chad have sired some very good offspring and influenced the breed in the right direction.

After using several of these herd sires on our herd with what we thought were good results, we realized that we would have to bring in some new blood. Since our methods all of this time was a trial and error method, it was always an experiment of what to use next – without destroying the characteristics we wanted to preserve. At this time, we decided to establish what we called the test pasture. This was a small pasture out in the hills (160 acres) that could easily carry 25 or 30 cows. This was where we could test young bulls or breeds on our cows to feel our way, without harming the genetic pool of our best cows. Our herd by this time had grown into fairly large numbers and we had to have them split into four different groups to control the breeding and get them all with the sires we wanted them with and could be sure of all the ancestry of their offspring. We have found that our cattle do not breed with the same prepotency, so it gives us a chance to make a young bull prove himself before he is allowed to run with some of our best cows. In this pasture we usually run four or five off breed cows; such as, Chiangus or Amerifax, which gives us a test on the young bull’s belting ability and see what his calves are like. If this bull meets our expectations, we will then use him in one of the other pastures on some of our better cows.

At this time, we have several young bulls that we have been using in a limited way so they can prove themselves before we use them to their fullest extent. Some of these bulls are named Slammer of Flying Cross, Rewind of Flying Cross, Pedro of Flying Cross, and Gringo of Flying Cross. All of these bulls have passed the 1200 pound mark by the time they are a year old. The two sires that we are depending on the most and have the best proven records are Kikadingo of Flying Cross and Cowpoke of Flying Cross. Both of these bulls seem to be passing on to their offspring the traits that we believe we are searching for. Their daughters seem to be very feminine, have good dispositions and seem to grow fast in their first year of life, which we believe is a very important trait. We believe that the first year of growth on a calf tends more to lean meat.  Just what the consumer wants.  As an animal gets older, they tend to have excessive deposits of outside fat, which is what the consuming public wants in diminishing quantities. The gains on young cattle are put on at a much lower cost than can be done with older, more mature cattle. Younger beef is usually more tender and palatable than more mature carcasses.  We believe that our animals can produce carcasses that will reach slaughter at 13 to 14 months of age and think that we should have a goal of doing this at one year of age.