Saturday, 22 July 2017

Alternative breeds for breeding-back? Part III: How I would do it

In the two previous posts, I outlined why it might be advantageous to introduce some useful but not currently used breeds into the “breeding-back” population as a whole. Those breeds would have genetic, morphologic and ecologic benefits and in the first post, I introduced a selection of European and European-descending breeds and in the previous one, the Turano-Mongolian cattle group. I also mentioned that we should get us an overview over the landraces in the Near and Middle East before they disappear.

I presented a long list and it is by far not complete. However, for those who wonder what I breeds I would choose to work with, I decided to write an extra post. Of course, single breeds that have the right combination of traits could be bred into existing projects just to increase genetic diversity. But to me, it would be fun to think of a project that starts completely from a new with these breeds, and to gain a maximum of genetic diversity from within this set.

I would acquire cows from Tudanca, Camargue, Barrosa, Angeln (paying attention on getting such with inwards-facing, aurochs-like horns), Modicana, Avilena (trying to get well-horned cows), Alistana-Sanabresa and slender Wagyu. Then, for the first round, I would inseminate the cows with semen from bulls of Texas Longhorn, Corriente, Florida Cracker (trying to get one from a mother with aurochs-like horns), Chillingham cattle, Maltese, Yakutian cattle and well-built other Turano-Mongolian bulls. The combinations do not matter that much, because in the end all genes will be mixed up. But for breeding bulls, I would prefer three combinations in the second generations: (Tudanca x Maltese) x Corriente, (Texas Longhorn x Modicana) x Corriente, (Barrosa x Maltese) x Maltese. I would also produce individuals for Corriente and Maltese that are at least 75% pure, mixed with breeds that either supply horn volume (for Maltese) or size (for Corriente). Since genetics work by chance, one would have to pick the best individuals of these combinations, and after a sufficient amount of time, all kinds of possible combinations would be produced and many of them can deliver good breeding bulls. In general, I would like two breeds to have a stronger influence in the herd(s), Maltese and Corriente. Maltese because of their large size, long-legged build and long skulls, and Corriente because of their aurochs-like build and horns. Some Corriente look like miniature versions of the best Taurus bulls (f.e. see here) and some even have comparably largehorns.
This mix would be very diverse at the beginning. Not only genetically, but also morphologically and regarding colour. I would worry the least about colour, as it is regulated by the fewest genes (more on that later). Which combinations are best can only be shown by experience, and also if some breeds do not meet the appointments. One would have to try it. I am, of course, aware of the fact that such a project would be very expensive (because of acquiring all the semen alone), and you would have to start with probably at last thirty animals if you want to build up a significantly large population and therefore also need the area size and more money. Apart from that, it would have to be run by patient people, because a lot of combinations would not look good at the beginning but bear potential for later generations.


  1. Another good article. If not limiting yourself to only the breeds not currently used in other programs would this still be your ideal line up? I'm also curious, If the Maltese would prove to hard to get semen from would the similar breeds in cyprus and Crete be acceptable? Or at least more so than chianina? Reading your articles always makes me wish I lived in Europe so I could start my own back breeding program.

    1. I rescind that bit about Crete. I was just reading this article on the Maltese cattle: . And that bit at the end about Crete breeds had me a little overzealous to post. I just read there aren't any native cattle left on Crete... I do remember Cyprus cattle at the pafos zoo however.

  2. Some thougths :
    So genetic diversity is a good thing in general, however if there are populations that have adopted to some more extreme conditions this may have resulted in narrow gene-pools, because only animals that had some genes in the rigth place made it.
    And if these animals get mixed up with others than the breed could get less adopted, exept they are mixed up with breeds that are already also adopted to the same conditions.
    So if or how much genetic diversity makes sense would depend on the environment a breed should get in. If one doesn't know this than genetic diversity would be most useful.

    Basically one could argue that any breeds could be used to create Auroch-like cattle, because of convergent evolution.
    On the other hand there is a good chance that later or sooner an Auroch will be cloned, or even a few. So if these get mixed up with other cattle to avoid inbreeding, it would make sense to cross them with breeds that are not too different from them, both morphologically and genetically. Then number of the breeds used would be quite limited.
    One would start with one that has special Mtdna (like Welsh Black, for example), and then waters this down, and Pajuna would get a major role.

    Crossing small with large animals is risky, at least for dogs and horses, so i won't wonder if this is just the same with cattle.
    This can result in odd proportions, like large dogs with small heads attached on them, and this is not really fair for the animals.
    And offsprings of these crosses could try to give birth to animals that are so large that it gets risky, this is not really predicteble.
    So if smaller breeds are included maybe it's better to cross these with sligthly bigger animals instead of really big ones, to assimilate the size of these crosses stepwise.

    Secret master-plan for small super-cows hat do well in wet environments :
    Get Camargue-cows. These are not that rare.
    Cross them to Madura-bulls. These are not big either.
    Cross the best half of the cows from these crosses to Corriente-bulls wich sprout thick fur in winter. These are somewhat bigger than the two former breeds, but vigor hybris may have occured at the crosses.
    Cross the bad half of the cows from the first crosses to the best bulls from the first cosses. If this results in some more good cows these get crossed to Corriente also.

  3. Nice post! I am an usual reader of your blog but I do not tend to let comments, congratulations for this last series of entries, well done.
    Your project sounds good but I don´t like the idea of letting out the "best" products of other breeding back projects. I would add some of the best individuals of the Wörth heck cattle and Taurus project.
    Also for me the some lidia cattle is a MUST for a project if we want something behavioral close to auroch. Yeah I know that Camarguese cattle already has some lidia influence, but I would add a Miura cow (Given its size I think it will be one of the best options). Look at this one!