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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Heck cattle at Munich Zoo

The Heck cattle at Tierpark Hellabrunn, Munich, were the first Heck herd I ever saw. This herd is particularly interesting not only because they live in exactly the Zoo where Heinz Heck created that breed and had considerable influence on many other Heck herds, including the wonderful Wörth lineage, but also because they are among the very few Heck cattle herds that have a nearly perfect Aurochs-like coat colour: 



As you see, the bulls are dark brown to black without a prominent saddle, the eel stripe and mealy mouth are present. The cows are reddish-brown becoming darker towards neck, head, legs and tail tip. Actually, it is almost surprising to see purebred Heck cattle with a coat that strongly reddish, because many lightly-coloured Heck cows tend to have either a pale brown or beige-coloured coat. But in this herd, the colour genes seem to be puzzled together correctly. 
But as we know, coat colour is only one aspect of the aurochs' outer appearance. The body of the Munich herd is very bulky and domestic, very similar to "usual" cattle breeds and unlike the aurochs. Same goes for the small and short head. The legs are considerably shorter than in the aurochs, while the trunk is elongated. There is little to no hump. Their body size isn't remarkable, probably they are within Heck cattle's usual size average of 140 cm for bulls and 130 for cows at the withers, and therefore, much too small. The horns have a correct basic curvature, but they are oriented too vertically and the tips do not face as much inwards as in the aurochs. Also the horns should be slightly larger. 
Apart from that, there are black cows in the herd. There were black aurochs cows too, but probably only very rarely, while in Heck cattle they might make up more than the half of the cows in a herd.  
Quite frankly, this cow should be selected out
So, when taking a closer look, the Munich herd resembles the aurochs only in colour closely. In some Iberian breeds the coat colour also matches that of the aurochs very well, such as Maronesa (I will cover Maronesa in a later post), or some of the few "primitive" Lidia herds left. 

Nevertheless, the Hellabrunn Heck cattle are still nice to look at. Cows from that herd have recently been transported to the national park in Hortobagy, Hungary, where they contribute to a large herd of Taurus/Heck cattle. 

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