Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Ecoland cattle

Ecolanders or Ecoland cattle are crossbreeds of Heck cattle and Scottish Highland, or actually Heck cattle with Highland influx. According to the ABU's guide "Wilde Weiden" it was the idea by the Dutch conservation group Ecoplan Natuurontwikkeling to cross Heck and Highland cattle in order to create a breed that is as calm and relaxed as Highland cattle, but with a shorter and wild type-coloured coat, to use them in reserves that are open to visitors and educational courses. 
You can see some of the results, from a herd at Kempen~Broek, on Geer vanne Smeed's blog
...and flickR stream: 15765434216_8915f58a0d_o.jpg
And there is another interesting photo taken by Stefan Verhees:

As you see, many of those Ecoland cattle are hardly distinguishable from usual Heck cattle, for the simple reason that Highland cattle is one of the important founding breeds. Just look at the photo of the bull in the second link. But in some of the cows, you see the traces of the recent Highland influx. For example, the trunk is heavier than it already is, some have a rather short snout and small head (third link), their coat is shaggier than usual and some also have a shiny red base colour. Why I think this shiny red is a Highland legacy, although Highlands have a completely different colour? The colour is actually not as different as it seems: Highland cattle have many different colour variants, and those with that shiny, uniform red/orangish coat do, of course, not display wild-type colour - but thats merely due to the fact that they have the e-allele on their extension locus, which disables the expression of eumelanin (black and dark brown pigment) in their coat and mucous membranes. Therefore I think that if you combined that allele that causes the rich production of phaeomelanin (red pigment), perhaps the agouti locus that otherwise causes grayish shades, with the E+ of Heck cattle, you'd achieve that shiny wildtype colour displayed by these Ecolanders. Maybe some future Tauros cattle will do as well. 

EDIT: I just was told by Henri Kerkdijk-Otten that these cattle called Ecolanders at Kempen~Broek are in fact usual Heck cattle, what should explain their similarity to usual Heck cattle that I described above (*oops*). 


  1. Hey Daniel,

    original plan was to breed Heck cattle, Highland cattle and some Hungarian grey cattle and select on temperament.
    However, these Ecolanders in Kempen-Broek are 100 percent Heck cattle selected on behavior. They always flee immediately when I approach them. The Ecolander breeding has been discontinued by Hans van der Lans. Before I approached the Taurus Foundation I approached Ecoplan and it was a close call or I would have started something with Ecoplan regarding a backbreeding attempt.

    Best wishes,