According to one breeder "this magnificent, ancient breed" frequently has:
...upswept lyre-shaped horns similar to Ayrshires that continue to twist as the animals age. The bulls typically have shorter horns that curve forward with age in a flat arc. The cows are quite tall and very angular (resembling Texas Longhorns in body shape)...They are extremely active and alert cattle with large flight zones that require careful handling. The cattle are aggressive grazers and calve with exceptional ease.
The White Park bear resemblance to the Longhorn because the horned White Park of today is product of the mixing of other old breeds of England, as described by Hall. “The White Park is really a mixture of several breeds and includes blood from Longhorn (English, not Texas), Welsh Black and Scottish Highland. This is because it (White Park) originated when several ancient herds of white cattle were merged and in all of these (unlike Chillingham) there had been crossing with other breeds."
While the White Park is now among those breeds bred and selected for beef production, historically it served a dual purpose and was valued as a source of milk as well. The White Park is well-suited to non-intensive production.
According to the Oklahoma State University web site, the White Park is not closely related to the British White (which is hornless) or the American White Park and is genetically distinct from them; however, that misinformation was provided by the White Park Cattle Society. All breed information provided by OSU is the product of queries to the respective breed associations, not in-house cattle experts. The color scheme these three share sometimes also appears in other cattle breeds such as the BON, the Berrenda, the N'guni, and the Texas Longhorn. Per the OSU web site blood typing has established that although the Highland cattle and the Galloway cattle of Scotland seem to be its closest relatives, the White Park "is genetically far distant from all British breeds". However, that has long since been proven false as reflected in the excellent research and critical essay of Jessica Hemming for Folklore magazine found at this link.
While Hemming's article is not biological in nature, it reflects well on the actual hard data that is available for review and subsequent rebuttal of the White Park Cattle Society's claim of genetic distinction from all other breeds. Further, a review of the genetic databases at the Roslin Institute in the United Kingdom does not reveal any glaring genetic distinction. In fact, it's apparent that the White Park cattle chosen for the study have a lot in common with the English Longhorn.
Hemming references the work of Hall in the following excerpt: ". . . In other words, since the Chillingham cattle, wherever they came from, cannot be aurochsen, they must be Bos taurus just like Jerseys or Herefords or any other breed. They do look more like miniature aurochsen, but that is because they have not been selectively bred for beef or milk, and cattle that have been left to their own devices will tend to revert to ancestral type. Although both the late president and the patron have quoted genetic work done on the cattle to support their arguments, the zoological reports in fact make it quite clear that the Chillingham herd does not have any special relationship to the aurochs whatsoever (Hall 1982-3, 96; 1991, 540)."
Both horned and polled white cattle with red points are mentioned in the ancient Irish epic The Cattle Raid of Cooley that survives in recensions dating back to at least the 12th century and preserving stories from perhaps a thousand years earlier.
The White-Horn bull most often mentioned by horned White Park breeders in the 'Cattle Raid of Cooley' section of The Tain is not distinguished in The Tain as having red ears; however, in prelude sections and in subsequent sections to the Cattle Raid saga are found many references to hornless milk-white heifers and cow herds with red ears, and always they are in the context of domesticity, rather than wildness. As well, the great White-Horn in The Tain was found and killed by the Dun bull in the context of a village community, indicating domesticity. The 'wild' aspect of the breed now known as White Park has its roots in the isolated Chillingham herd, while other horned herds of White Park cattle are, and have been, quite domesticated.
Cattle of a similar type are also mentioned in Welsh laws made in Deheubarth by a series of rulers from AD 856 to 1197. A herd in Dynevor, Wales, dates from this time. Herds at Chartley and Chillingham in England and Cadzow in Scotland date to the mid-13th century and a time when the White Park were "emparked", i.e., enclosed in hunting chases.
There were more than a dozen white Park Cattle herds in Britain in the early 1800s, but most of these were exterminated by the turn of the next century.
The Park Cattle registration program in Britain was started in the early 1900s, and registered both the horned and the polled Park cattle, but the registrations lapsed during World War II. The old image below reflects both a horned and a polled Park animal in 1835. The image is entitled 'White Urus', and reflects the myth that was strong even almost 200 years ago that the Park cattle, both horned and polled, were descendants of the ancient aurochsen.
By then, only the Dynevor, Woburn, Whipsnade, and Cadzow herds survived as domesticated herds; the ancient herd at Vaynol in Wales and the above-mentioned Chillingham herd having become semi-feral. In 1973, when the Rare Breeds Survival Trust was formed in Britain, the remaining British herds were given the general name "White Park".
One or two pairs of White Park cattle were imported to Canada in the 1930s and were kept at the Toronto Zoo. While some sources indicate the export of these cattle was done for purely commercial reasons, others say sent they were sent to North America to preserve a British "national treasure" from the threat of Nazi invasion.
The Canadian-born offspring of those cattle eventually ended up at the Bronx Zoo but facilities there were inadequate for their long term housing. Four animals were moved to the King Ranch in Texas where they remained for almost the next forty years before being purchased by Mr. & Mrs. John Moeckly of Polk City, Iowa. Correspondence authored by Captain Jean Delacour of the New York Zoological Society states on Feb. 10, 1942 ". . .they are neither wild nor vicious. In fact, they are just a breed of very old and primitive domestic cattle -- the probable ancestors of Shorthorns." Further, Robert Kleberg of the King Ranch tells us ". . .We were also interested in these cattle because at one time we ran Shorthorns in very large wooded pastures . . .there were many cases in which they reverted to red ears or black ears and we thought there must be some connection between the Shorthorn cattle and the Wild Park Cattle of England. In fact, I do believe this to be the case."
A portion of that herd was sold to the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa in 1988 and single heifer was sold to Joywind Farm in Ontario. This was followed by the sale of all but a few old cows and the White Park breed registry to the B Bar Ranch in Big Timber, Montana. The last few aged cows were sold to Mark Fields of Clark, Missouri.
There were only five North American herds in 1995 and with a breeding population of less than 50 animals in the United States the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy now regards this animal's status as critical. White Park in the United States have been DNA tested to determine the best course for a breeding program to insure their survival.
Besides Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, the breed is also kept in Australia, Germany, and Denmark but its total numbers equal only approximately 500 purebred females, plus bulls and young stock. They are mostly found on Rare Breed farms such as Wimpole Home Farm in Cambridgeshire, England, Appleton Farms in Massachusetts, or the previously-mentioned B Bar Ranch in Montana.