Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Sayaguesa x Chianina

Besides all possible combinations of Sayaguesa, Chianina and Heck owned by the ABU in the Lippeaue reserve, there are also a few Sayaguesa x Chianina crossbreeds - all of them (true) F1 yet. This combination is very interesting to me as it has the potential to produce really large and long-legged cattle and it might show whether Chianina has retained sexual dichromatism to some degree masked beneath all their dilution factors or not. 
One of these crossbreeds - a cow named Bionade - was already introduced in this post

Actually it is unnecessary to examine the looks of a first-generation crossbreed because it does genetically not make sense, but let's do it for fun. Its colour is definitely wildtype-coloured but very diluted. The legs are long and the trunk short, but the head is small and the horns point skywards. I am curious whether the head will grow more elongated (the cow was about 2 years old when I took that photo). I don't remember well enough to estimate her size. 
I was very curious what a bull of this combination would look like, and few days ago Matthias Scharf from the ABU kindly provided me with a recent photo: 

Although one photo is not enough to judge the looks of an animal 100% accurately, it is obvious that its trunk is short and its legs are long too. The head and horns are small too, as in the cow. Nevertheless, the hump is well-developed, especially for a bull of that age. I was told that he looks a bit meaty from behind. Looking at his colour I noticed that his coat tends towards a grayish colour, while Bionade is definitely coloured in very light brown. Perhaps this is the confirm that Chianina retained sexual dichromatism beneath their dilution factors. Why? Because Sayaguesa, having black or nearly-black cows, probably did not contribute this feature. 

Now imagine a herd composed exclusively of F1 Sayaguesa x Chianina animals. Considering the long generation span of cattle, efficient linebreeding to unite all the desired features and clear off all undesired traits would take very long. But perhaps (true) F2 or F3 would be enough to get some acceptable cattle that are large, long-legged and have a muscular and slender body plus a well-developed hump and not that much dilution factors. Probably sexual dichromatism would surface in a number of individuals (Perhaps an undiluted cow of this combination might have a similar colour to this cow which is mainly composed of these two breeds). 

Despite the probably still quite small horns, such animals surely would be prime breeding bulls for any Heck/Taurus herd. The bull above most likely will not become a breeding bull in the Lippeaue, but I hope he won't get slaughtered. He probably would be helpful to a herd like those at W├Ârth or the Neandertal, because he adds what they usually lack. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Genealogy of some Lippeaue cattle

This is the last post of this little Taurus cattle series, I promise. Using an extremely helpful list I was given when I visited the Lippeaue plus what I already, I made a genealogical table of a very small portion of the Taurus cattle currently (or, summer 2013) used there. This table might be updated if I made any wrong assumptions. 

Photos of
Eloisia, Lancelot, Lucio, Luca and Ludovica: © ABU 
Churro: © Peter von Burg (Check out his cool archive!)

All the other photos were taken by myself.

As you see, all crosses in this selection descend from one Heck bull and one Chianina cow, while there are three Sayaguesa. Don't worry, there are of course a lot more founding individuals, particularly Heck cows I assume.  

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Heck, or Taurus?

Taurus cattle become increasingly widespread among Heck cattle thanks to their increased resemblance to the aurochs. Recently, some Taurus cattle (or Taurus-influenced Hecks) were even imported in the Netherlands. The inclusion of Taurus individuals into un-crossed Heck herds of course increases the primitive looks of Heck cattle as a whole, so it should be seen as a positive trend. Therefore I don't think that Taurus cattle and Heck cattle should be regarded as separate breeds (apart from that, Taurus cattle is no "finished" breed yet but still in a crossbreeding phase). I see Taurus cattle as an advanced form of Heck cattle. In this post I am going to present some photos of Taurus-influenced "usual" Heck cattle - I define them as Heck cattle that are not part of conscious crossbreeding or tagged as Taurus, and that have a large portion of un-crossed Hecks in their genealogy. If the trend of mixing Taurus and non-Taurus Hecks keeps up, it will probably get hard to distinguish between both in the future, which is, again, positive. I hope that one day all Heck cattle will be influenced by the breeds used for Taurus cattle, perhaps except some herds in zoos for nostalgic reasons. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Taurus cattle at Lille Vildmose

Denmark was the second country after Germany to breed a herd of Taurus cattle. They started in 2003 with a number of individuals from the Lippeaue. Since you find a precise description of the history of that herd and the selection criteria at Vildmose on this thread (post #1051 and following), I am not going to go over it in great detail here.

The early breeding bull in this herd was a Chianina x Heck named Leonardo, now slaughtered and half-blood brother of Luca and also one of the earliest, if not the first, Chianina-cross at the Lippeaue. As an F1, he had a full set of Chianina chromosomes and a full set of Heck chromosomes to pass on to his offspring. As a consequence, many of those cattle are rather Chianina-influenced, which is a) good for achieving long legs, a slender body and large size, b) results in many individuals with a diluted fur colour. However, the influence of Sayaguesa is not totally absent, some of them have nice elongate snouts, and there are in fact individuals with an authentic aurochs colour. They also imported Lidia cows, but did not continue using them or their offspring because of their temperament. 
Here are some photos of those cattle that I took from their status reports (see the Carnivora thread):




























The cows on #1 and #2 are obviously Sayaguesa-influenced. #3 probably shows one of Leonardo’s sons, and #4 shows Leonardo with the rest of the herd. The cows on #7-2, #11 and #14 have a nice slender and long-legged body, although they have – the exception of the latter one – a rather diluted colour. #29 shows a part of the herd, along with a bull that is very likely another son of Leonardo (the same as the one on #21?). While the bull on #13 seemingly looks like usual Heck bull, those on #21 and #24 look cool to me because of their 1:1 trunk length/withers height relation – and so is the cow on #23. Rather awesome in my opinion. Surely, their diluted colour is not desirable, but colour is regulated by only a few loci so I do not worry that much about it. I simply consider proportions, body size and body shape more important at this stage. When you look at the bull on #12 and remember the photos I took at the Lippeaue, you might realize that this bull has the same colour as “Larissa” (see here), a Chianina x 25% Chianina cow. If my knowledge on cattle coat colour genetics is correct, both individuals should be heterozygous for the Dun dilution allele, which results in a tan colouration (see Leonardo, or Luca linked above), homozygous for the Agouti dilution which causes the whitish base colour.
None of the individuals we see in the status reports have remarkable horns – neither in regards to dimensions nor curvature.

To sum it up, the herd at Lille Vildmose, mostly composed of individuals descending from Heck and Chianina but also Sayaguesa influence, has the potential to give rise to large and well-proportioned animals, and some also have elongated snouts. But the Chianina influence produces many individuals with diluted fur colour, and the horns are not good. They use 3 Sayaguesa bulls as new breeding bulls now. This should help to clear of all the dilution alleles and increase the snout length. It also must be expected that more individuals with forwards-facing horns have been born thanks to the new bulls (although the horns probably will not get perfect yet, Sayaguesa only rarely have inwards-facing horns and the dimensions are still insufficient).
We should mind that this post and those in the forum are based on status reports from several years ago, so that we do not know the most recent breeding results and the current state of the herd. I hope they are not going to use the Sayaguesa bulls for too long, otherwise the herd gets “Sayaguesa-ized” and becomes more and more like that breed, while the chance for achieving individuals exceeding a size of 165 cm gets ever smaller. A 170 cm Taurus bull is outstanding yet, in Denmark as much as in Germany and Hungary.

What worries me as well are the selection criteria (see the thread). For example, they accept saddles for bulls and wholly black cows, what means that no selection for colour dimorphism takes place.