Breed of the Month Archive

Groningen White Headed

Photo: Zwanet Faber
Herd-Book creation :1905
Number of registered breeding females (2007) in the Netherlands :~ 1.500
(pedigree >87,5%)
Trend :Slowly increasing
Location : Provinces Groningen and South Holland near the "Leidse Rhine" and the "Old Rhine" in the Netherlands
Local name :Groninger Blaarkop

Breed description

The Groningen White Headed is a red or black cow with a white head and blisters around the eyes, white socks, belly and udder. Females are about 130-135 cm in height and weigh 550 kg. Males are about 145-150 cm and weigh around 850 kg. The black colour is seen by max 20% of the population. It is a dual purpose breed (60% milk 40% meat). Furthermore it is a strong, robust and sober breed with strong dry legs, hard claws and high protein in the milk.
Other strong points of the Groningen White Headed are longevity, low veterinary cost, little feet problems, high fertility rate and high revenues from sale of cull stock. The optimal production system for a Groningen White Headed are low-demand or organic systems. Average milk production is almost 6200 kg.  

History: origin of the breed and main region or country

In The Netherlands the Groningen White Headed is a known breed for centuries. They were already seen on paintings from the Middle Ages. In 1344 they 12 black and 7 red White Headed animals in Monnickendam were counted for sale. In 1897 there were 3 breeds recognized of which one was Groningen White Headed.
Groningen White Headed cattle could be found in the Provinces Groningen, South Holland (near the “Leidse” and The “Old” Rhine) and Utrecht. Nowadays, Groningen White Headed can still be found in these areas.

Trend of population

In the fifties 5% of the cattle population in The Netherlands was Groningen White Headed. In 1965-1970 this was reduced to 2%. After 1980 the number of Groningen White Headed decreased even more.

YearNumber of adult females of Groningen White Headed
(pedigree >87.5%)

The trend for the Groningen White Headed is that the breed is becoming more popular for cross breeding, suckling/meat cows and grazing. Also it is a good cow to use in organic farming systems.

Breeding, conservation and promotion

At the moment the Groningen White Headed generates more positive publicity. The number of inseminations by Groningen White Headed bulls is increasing, especially for crossbreeding purposes. At the moment there is one major breed interest group called The Blaarkop Stichting. Their major goal is to keep the Groningen White Headed cattle on the dairy farms. They are promoting the breed and try to find new projects/niche markets for the breed. There is one breeding organisation (1986, Blaarkop Syndicaat). They take care that there are enough quality bulls available and that there is a good breeding value estimation. They calculate unpublished breeding values according to Groningen White Headed standard. Officially the breeding values published by the big breeding company are calculated according to the MRY-standard. Only bulls with enough daughters will get these, other bulls don’t get breeding values at all. Next to these organisations there are 4 (regional/national) farmer networks/study groups.  

There is also a Commission that has to advice AI/breeding organisation NRS. This group consists of several farmers of the Groningen White Headed breed. Advise is given when a new bull has to be selected for AI. One important thing for this group is to help select has little related bulls as possible. Semen from 49 Groningen White Headed bulls, collected between 1973 and 2005, is conserved in the gene bank and managed by the Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands.


Feel free to contact Debbie Wilhelmus for further information