- Aurochs-like features at Oostvaardersplassen
- New aurochs head reconstruction and new photo from Oostvaardersplassen
- Heck cattle at Oostvaardersplassen - A special population
- Dedomestication Series
Unfortunately, many of the linked photos are not displayed anymore because the html seem to have changed or because of an error by Blogger. That happens all the time and I cannot fix it. I apologize.
After about 35 years of natural selection, the morphology of the bulls in particular noticeably changed. The steppe cattle-like bulls you see on old photos from 1983 (see Frisch, 2010) vanished. On this video, you see a bull (0:37) with a morphology that matches perfectly that of many very aurochs-like Lidia bulls or accurate aurochs reconstructions. This individual still has the diluted colour that is the vestige of steppe cattle descendants, but there are many examples without colour dilutions. In a number of individuals, you see horns with an inwards-curve starting to resemble that of the aurochs you find nowhere else in uncrossed Heck cattle (see the linked posts above). But those individuals are, surprisingly, cows exclusively.
Today, I found this video:
This video and many recent photos show in my opinion that the Heck cattle population at Oostvaardersplassen is definitely evolving on a genetic basis, and in a direction that approaches the aurochs in many respects, which is probably not a coincidence. That makes it a very valuable population that should be protected in any case, and not be removed for whatever blind reasons (not just because of horn shapes. Examining if the decades of natural selection also led to metabolic and behavioural changes could be very insightful).
Unfortunately, it is not legally possible to take a bull from the reserve and use it for breeding because of veterinary reasons. However, perhaps it is possible to get semen from one of these interesting aurochs-like bulls at the start of becoming dedomesticated.
It is also apparent that the bulls are not very large. I would not be surprised if Heck cattle actually become smaller at OVP due to limited size and food availability (island effect). It would be interesting to measure some of these individuals, many bulls might actually be below the 140cm mark already (personal guess). It is also suspected that Chillingham cattle, living semi-feral in the Chillingham park for centuries now, also got smaller with time (for my post on Chillingham cattle, go here).