Friday, 11 March 2016

News from NP Hortobagy, Hungary

The National Park Hortobagy, Hungary, is home to the largest Taurus cattle population. I did a post on this herd using information I got from from Claudia Zimmermann and István Sándor in March 2014, also with photos. Now, two years later, this post deserves a little update, so I contacted István Sándor again. I was provided with lots of photos and information, many thanks! All the photos are courtesy of István Sándor, so please do not replicate without permission.

The herd numbers approximately 600 individuals today, a good part of them are calves (about 130 calves get born every year). The population is of course still heterogeneous, but they select strongly. Most frequent undesired traits are insufficient body size, horn curvature or thin horns, I was told. I'd expect colour to be variable as well. 

After calving season, the bulls that are chosen for breeding are allowed to join the cows for mating (two or three bulls per season). They compete with each other for breeding rights. Rimu (a [Sayaguesa x Heck] x [Grey x Watussi] bull) and Anno, a pure Heck bull from Wörth, were used as breeding bulls in 2014, last year Anno and Felipe. The latter one is from the Lippeaue and a son of Lamarck and the Sayaguesa cow Augustina born in 2013. They currently have another bull from the Lippeaue which is too young for breeding yet.
Felipe, born in the Lippeaue
In 2014, I speculated that this bull (called Aramis) has Lidia ancestry. I was wrong, in fact it was a fullblood brother of Zeusz, both of which are the sons of Lasso (75% Heck, 25% Sayaguesa) and Xena, the Grey x Holstein cow. Both the brothers were not used for breeding, and at least Aramis had been slaughtered.

Szepes (12,5% Sayaguesa,  87,5 % Heck) has been excluded from breeding as well now. He was, just like his fullblood brother Toldi, too aggressive as well. Which is a pity, because both brothers were large and had good horns. I don't know if Szepes left descendants and how many. 
Toldi's skull with and without sheaths

They bought three pure Watussi from Germany, which are currently living in the reserve. The Watussi cattle themselves are cold-sensitive and cannot stay outside the whole winter, but first-generation crosses, despite having a shorter coat, do not have these problems. Dewlap and fleshy hump are not inherited that strongly, but usually the horn shape of first-generation Watussi crosses is problematic. But it seems that the great gain of volume is worth it.
Below are photos of three Watussi crosses. The first one is a first generation cross, a son of Anno, the Wörth bull. This combination is especially interesting, because the Wörth lineage already has rather large horns thanks to selection and slight Watussi influence. Szaniszlo, most likely a second generation Watussi-mix, is designed for breeding 2016. 

Anno x Watussi cow

Second generation Watussi cross, slaughtered
Benjamin, a possible breeding bull for 2016; has influence of Heck, Sayaguesa and Grey cattle

Anno is a good Wörth bull. He resembles the popular bull Aretto, who was likely his father – no colour saddle and good, large horns. His descendants are thick-horned as well, without ending up small and dachshund-legged despite being half-Heck. If that’s what we can expect for the products of the Wörth Heck cow Nadia in the Lippeaue, I am much looking forwards to those new large-horned Taurus cattle. Those Anno-descendants have more upright horns, but that is not necessarily because they are half-Heck since the Hungarian herd has had recent influx from Grey cattle.

A little surprise was that Larus (Heck x Lidia), the little half-Lidia bull I mentioned in my previouspost on old and removed cattle from the Lippeaue, went to Hortobagy, where he lived until 2010. He was the only half-Lidia they used in Hortobagy, and very aggressive. I don’t know if he left descendants.
It seems to be true of all half-Lidia bulls that one can barely work with them in extensive grazing projects – see the Lippeaue, where they only kept one in one instance for a few years, Denmark, where they had to slaughter their bull, and Larus.  
Larus, Heck x Lidia, as a grown bull
Now, some good and average cows from the reserve:


  1. Thank you for another interesting report! I am particularly impressed with the bull Szaniszlo, which seems to combine good horns with good colour and long, graceful legs. Do you know anything about his size?

    Some of the cows too look very promising!

    Petter Bøckman

    1. I don't know about its size; Toldi, Rimu and Zeusz have/had a shoulder height of about 160 cm, but they are a suboptimal analogue because each of them is of a different breed combination.

  2. You are well informed regarding the type and developments, Daniel.I wished I could say the same of the Taurossen at Kempen~Broek!!!!!!!!
    I wonder why these have names. Interesting anyway and very good photo's.

  3. I had a chance to see the Hortobagy herd (or at least part of it) last week. Incredibly beautiful animals, and the area they graze in has become the best grassland in all of the national park. I saw a birch mouse there, which is extremely rare.