Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Founding breeds of Heck cattle, once again

… but this time as a picture. I picked photos of all the (known) founding breeds of Heck cattle, and composed them on a single table. They are not shown to same scale, but the size of each cattle represents the possible importance of its contribution to Heck cattle. 

Image sources: 
Highland: http://www.eigenheer.ch/thomas/reisen/2006_schottland/hochlandrind.JPG
Braunvieh: http://www.ulis-photowelt.de/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/
Old Frisian: http://www.vieh-ev.de/bilder/gross/schwarzbuntes_niederungsrind_01.jpg
Corsicana: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-QRy5uqHpLp4/UIeDacLfoZI/AAAAAAAAUuA/aEujJkbfWjg/s1600/Corse+618+.JPG
Angeln cattle: http://www.fitmenue-haustier.de/assets/images/angler-rind.jpg
Hungarian Gray: http://www.herz-fuer-tiere.de/typo3temp/pics/771669e1af.jpg
Murnau-Werdenfelser: http://www.lbr.bayern.de/zv-weilheim/Bilder/Anita_JaisEschenlohe_2011.jpg
Watussi: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/02/Watusi_Cattle.JPG/1280px-Watusi_Cattle.JPG


  1. Hi there everybody,
    I really enjoy to see your work regarding wild horses and wild cattle reconstruction and I would like to see some more species diversification if I may request such.
    There are a few more species that existed in Europe in Pleistocene and even in Holocene that are very rarely mentioned in general and were never here, and just to mention some: what about the wild European onager/donkey? the several species of elephants and mammoths? the forest reindeer? the water buffalo? the dhole? and the European dingo?
    I know that in order to have good quality posts a lot of research and available time is needed, anyway is just a request to start shaking peoples minds and knowledge regarding the European potential fauna (not to mention even the North American one).
    Please take it in consideration and if you will dedicate yourself to other species I am absolutely sure the results will be great and more people would learn about the European fauna of the past, the ecosystems dynamics that once existed and the impact that we humans had and we still have to change our world into a less diversified place.
    My truly best regards to all that share here the passion to the recovery of life!

    1. Hi,
      thanks for your comment, but first of all, this blog is on breeding-back, as the title suggests, not the original European megafauna. Therefore treating all these species here would be off-topic and is not my primary interest here.
      I don't want to start a general discussion about the Overkill hypothesis here, but one cannot just simply transfer the megafauna of the last interglacial into the Holocene; there were many different factors to consider and both the overkill and the climate hypothesis have good arguments on their side.
      Now to the species in particular:
      The European wild ass seemingly left no descendants, so breeding it back or approaching it with selective breeding is not possible. Furthermore, I really found only very scanty information on this species on the web yet, not enough to write anything about it that is worth mentioning.
      I guess by "several species of elephants and mammoths" you mean E. antiquus and the numerous island dwarfs? I think in both cases we cannot be sure if they survived into modern times without human influence, and their reintroduction to (southern) Europe would surely be very controversial. However, one reserve having asiatic Elephants on Iberia would be nice though.
      What is "forest reindeer"? Never heard of that, honestly.
      The evidence for the water buffalo colonizing Europe in the Holocene after the extinction of its european counterpart is rather thin, though its presence on the Balkan for example does not seem unlikely to me; I'd have to research on that. But it is no subject of breeding-back either.
      Is there any evidence of the dhole being present in the Europe of the Holocene?
      What is a "European dingo"? If you are talking about a hypothetical ancestor for the domestic dog that was a dingo-like wild dog that ranged all the way to Europe, that would be a rather far stretch in my opinion.

  2. I'd like to hear more about that dhole and dingo too, maybe Joao could write an article on those and place it here ? a guest appearance ?!

  3. "What is "forest reindeer"?"

    Well it's just that. Rangifer tarandus that lives mostly in boreal forests and boglands. Range of the reindeer has contracted very much since Middle Ages. For example, in Finland forestreindeer roamed troughout the country, but is nowadays limited to small parts of eastern Finland and central western part of the country. There has been some speak about further reintroductions in Finland. (Forest reindeer actually went extinct in Finland in the late 19th century, but it survived in Russian Carelia and spread from there to eastern Finland some 60 years ago. Later it was reintroduced to western Finland, where some 1000 animals live now.). I have no information regading its former range outside of Finland, but I would say that it was once much more common and widespread than know.

    Fine blog. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment and the nice words! I am aware of the fact that the range of the reindeer went down more southwards than today, but my question was mainly a nomenclatural one. I wanted to ask if he wanted to infer that there was a separate species/subspecies that was specialized on forested environments in the past. BTW, do you know where the southern border of the reindeer exactly was during comparable periods of the Holocene?

    2. Hello everyone,
      Good information regarding the forest reindeer Urugalus, thanks.
      The European forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) - because there is also an almost extinct North American version - is one of the several Eurasian reindeer's subspecies.
      In opposition to the tundra/taiga one and the Svalbard subspecies that live in mainly open landscapes, this one lived in temperate more forested ecosystems ruffly above latitude 50 degrees north until the beginning of the present geologic time. What means that existed at least until northern France, almost all Germany, the all of the low country's, most of Poland, the Baltic states, Belarus and in all of British islands! not mentioning a good part of Russia.
      In the highest moment of the glacial period around 20000 years ago they even existed in lower latitudes like northern Spain for example.
      But what I would like to call for everyone's attention is for the ecological rule of such a species. What kind of ecosystems they do need to live in? what are they eating? and what are the direct competitors of such animal?
      A common person would say that they live in the cold Arctic or in Tundra/taiga associations, capable of enduring cold rough weather, they do eat mainly lichens,mosses and grasses and the main competitor must be the red deer.
      So why do they exist and existed before being reintroduced in Scotland quite recently in a temperate ecosystem, side by side with red deers?
      Because they are not really competing with that species! they occupy an ecological rule that is marginal to other deers, they always tend to prefer more or less open spaces with plenty of lichens and mosses where ever they are and those also existed abundantly in old temperate forests as well as in mountain areas were those "plants" grow in profusion.
      Meaning from my point of view that from the ecological perspective I see no limitations - beside the human made changes - to the existence of this species in most of Europe and even quite south in the Alps area.
      One may say that this is not possible because central and western Europe was to densely forested, and everyone knows the Roman chronicles regarding the density of the forest behind the Roman empire. Well I say that even at that time the ecosystems were already so devoided of mega fauna that the forest simply got denser that naturally would be in the presence of those creatures. Many examples of this impact can be seen in present day Africa.
      So why the reindeer remained in so Nordic latitudes only? because they did not changed from the ecological point of view as much as the temperate ones, another quite good example of a "Nordic" species is the Elk, considered as a boreal animal 40 years ago that is thriving perfectly and expanding in temperate Europe from Poland to Czech Republic and into Germany.
      And to not let you all to bored with such a long comment I am finishing for now ending to say that we all need to get out of the recent nature paradigm and start to look into the mosaic of interrelations between all species and the environment, because i am absolutely sure we will find a lot of surprises and such a richness that we now only have a glimpse of it.
      My best regards to you all!

  4. I don't know about genetics, but tame reindeer and forest reindeer look quite different. Forest reindeer is somewhat bigger and it has much longer legs than tame deer. Long legs are adaptation to snowy winters and marshy grounds. Tame deer's ancestors were barren-ground or fell reindeer from northern Norway, so they are probably somewhat genetically distinct too.

    As for the southern border of the forest reindeers range: I would say that most of Finland was reindeer territory and northern Russia also in the same latitudes. In ancient times forest deer was hunted by using trap-pits, and these pit systems are found in southern Finland too, southernmost that I know of being about 70 km north-west from Helsinki. So my guess is that southern border was roughly the boreal-hemiboreal border. It is quite important border fot large herbivores, as it is also northern border to natural ranges of red deer, wild boar and wisent.

    Of course the climate has changed too. In early holocene Fennoscandian climate was drier and about 2C warmer than today, so lowlands were probably pine-birch forest-steppe. As far as I know there aren't wisent, wild horse or aurochs findings from Finland, but I wouldn't be surprised if these animals lived here then.