Despite the ample historic reference, indicating numerous animals, the Riggits have recently only been seen as sporadic throwbacks amongst other Galloway types (principally the White Galloways). From the beginning of the 20th century, until the mid nineteen eighties, none are known to have been kept for breeding.
Between them the two conventional Galloway Cattle Societies have allowed for Blacks, Duns, Reds, Whites, and the various colours of Belted. The Riggit cattle were never incorporated into these Societies, and subsequently fell into obscurity. It is probable that the trade in blue grey heifers caused a preference for plain black Galloway females, which worked against the Riggit.
There is no shortage of other documented reference to the Riggits, both as an established colouration, and identified type, of ‘Scottish’, or ‘Galloway’ cattle. Sources include various literary references (Robert Wallace, Lord Stuart, George Garrard et al), and Garrard's painting of a Red Riggit female, identified as ‘A fat Galloway heifer’, dated 1804 (see below). They were well known and recognised prior to the specialisation of the current mainstream types, and were amongst the accepted types that eventually divided into the ‘Galloway’, and the ‘Angus’.
The colouration seems to part of the phased change between a white animal with black points (as in the various park breeds, in this instance the White Galloway), and solid coloured animals -Black or Red or Dun. The white tail end shown on several solid coloured breeds seems to be the last hint of the ‘line-back’ marking in such breeds.
Only a handful of surviving British breeds show similar markings (including the Gloucester and the Longhorn), along with several Scandinavian breeds and the Austrian Pinzgauer. At least 2 North American ‘Riggit’ marked breeds have sprung up from mixed European origin – the Randall Line-back, and the Canadian Speckled Park. Interestingly, German research indicates that the pre-domestication bovines, the Auroch, may have been carrying the same markings.
It is thanks to the foresight of the late Flora Stuart that the type has been allowed to proliferate again. Prior to her persuading other White Galloway breeders to retain individual animals, and the ultimate introduction of these beasts to each other, the occasional throwbacks were either being culled out of herds, or positively discriminated against in breeding policy.
Before The Honourable Miss Stuart passed away, she had used her considerable knowledge of the Galloway cattle, and influence amongst their breeders, to encourage a handful of enthusiasts to deliberately breed Riggits, and begin a register. As the numbers crept back, bolstered by the occasional ‘new’ throwback amongst the Whites, the opportunity to establish separate herds has arisen. The handful of available bulls has also been crossed with other Galloways, widening the gene pool again.
Riggits across the Globe
Furthermore, there are some overseas Galloway Breeding groups who, fortuitously, have allowed the registration of several Riggits cattle among their herd books. Our Society also holds the register for Riggit Galloways in New Zealand. Riggits are also found in Germany, Canada and increasingly in other parts of the world.