Tuesday, 27 March 2018

New photos of Tauros cattle from 2017 and 2018

As the primary webpresence of the Tauros Programme is not very comprehensive considering their multiple herds and crossbreeding results, one has to pick together information and picture material from all possible kinds of other sources. In this case, someone else did it for me and I want to present some of the photos here. 
The identity (that is, ancestry and breed combination) of 99% of the individuals is not evaluable for non-members of the Tauros Programme, and I have become quite tired of trying to make guesses based on the animals' look what kind of combination they might be, because having experiences in looking at crossbreeds of aurochs-like cattle will tell you it is nearly impossible. However, in some cases where it is a bit less unclear I will share my thoughts/suspicions with you, but at the disclaimer that it could always be something completely different. 

Maashorst
©Bert van Zijderveld
This the Maashorst bull. Breed combination is unknown to the public, but it might be another Maremmana x Pajuna - at least its looks are completely intermediary between both breeds. The photo reveals that he cannot be very large, perhaps the size of a Heck bull (and thus about 140cm at the shoulders or so). 
© Marcel Bakker
© Marcel Bakker
The above photo is the first photo I have ever seen that shows wisent and aurochs-like cattle next to each other. It is good to see both species side by side once again. Once fence will be removed, it will be very interesting how the two species will interact behaviourally, ecologically and reproductively. 
© Marcel Bakker
Photos like these worry me, on the other hand. In most grazing projects the cattle are fenced of for reasons of conservation and commonsense, but here cattle and visitors obviously can approach each other closely and it is only a matter of time until that goes wrong. One incident might be enough to mark the end of the herd. 

Herpeduin 
© Ingrid van Thiel
The Herpeduin bull in profile view. He has really nice looks, although the horns could face more inwards. I like its elongated snout and the shoulder hump, the colour is beautiful. I think he is likely that it is half Maremmana, no clue on the other half. 
© Ingrid van Thiel
The long snout of this cow is remarkable. No idea whether it is a pure cow or a crossbreed. 
© Ingrid van Thiel
Most likely a cross cow. 

Keent 

Photos by Peter Mulder on FlickR
The photo gallery shows a lot of photos of various animals from Keent, some are pure others are young crossbreeds. Most of the offspring is from Manolo Uno, the Maremmana x Pajuna bull, but the exact combination of the individuals is not determinable for me. 

Ziva voda Modra 
From link
© Michael Köpping
This is a new herd in the Czech Republik, built of three animals born in Milovice. 


All in all, I like most of the individuals. Many of them are comparably slender, some of them have elongated snouts and others have a horn volume that is at least not small. Most of them have an authentic colour with a tendency towards a satisfying sexual dimorphism. They do resemble Taurus cattle, which is not surprising that both projects use similar or the same breed (Sayaguesa) and both strains resemble their common ancestor, the aurochs. However, what I still miss is a breed that reliably adds large size and long legs, as most of the cross results so far as much as many of the founding breeds/individuals, lack large body size and many of the bulls could be more long-legged. Also, they might need a boost in horn volume. Although the horns of the individuals of the Czech herds are comparably impressive, they are still smaller than the usual spectrum found in the aurochs, especially considering that we are comparing horn sheaths of the living animal with the fossil and subfossil horn cores of aurochs skulls. Most of the crossbred individuals lack the inwards curve of their horns, the horn tips regularly face outwards. It is not easy to fixate inwards-curving horns in a "breeding-back" herd as this trait is very rare among primitive breeds. This is a universal problem in "breeding-back" herds. The Taurus cattle herd in the Lippeaue has a number of individuals that are good in this respect because it is strongly influenced by a Sayaguesa cow with accurately inwards-curving horns (named Dona-Urraca) and many of the founding Heck cattle and Chianina were not entirely contraproductive in this respect as well. So the Tauros project needs a breed or at least good individuals contributing this trait. They already use Maronesa, which is the breed with the most pronounced inwards-curve in my opinion, which is an advantage. So in order to increase the frequency of aurochs-like inwards-curving horns it might be wise to increase the influence of Maronesa on the herds. They might then need the influence of a truly large and long-legged breed to compensate. The Tauros Programme revealed that they consider using Maltese cattle, a breed where the more primitive herds are truly remarkable regarding body conformation, proportions and skull shape (I hope they are comparable to Chianina in size). They would probably be very beneficial for all of the Tauros herds, but it is not clear whether they have made a serious effort yet to get their hands on individuals or semen from this breed. 

However, I think there is no need to hurry or to draw premature conclusions yet. As far as I can tell, the Tauros Programme is still in the "building up quantity" phase, that is, creating herds and breeding sites in various countries and waiting for them to grow. Once the desired quantity level is reached, they can start to focus on quality. Deficiencies that might become evident, like a lack of size or horn volume/curvature, can be fixed in that stage by more stringent selection or the inclusion/increase of the use of certain breeds that add these elements that are missing. 

4 comments:

  1. Interesting article showing the success of the breeding programmes in Holland, though the consequences of the absence of large predators is now obviousFive arrested at nature reserve as dispute over starving animals intensifies

    http://flip.it/sGFLMI

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  2. I think about this:" the large shoulders (very high and strong) are from fighting against each other". It will come again, only from the figts oft the strongest Bulls. Who has the more forepower can better resist.
    mfg Hans

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  3. Thank you for the updates on the project. I was just wondering what your opinion on the new (3-4 year old) Uruz Project was or if you had any updates on that. Supposedly, its founder was previously part of the Taurus Programme but left it over disagreements and is now using genome editing to help revive the aurochs in his new Uruz Project. Though you probably already knew that part. But anyways, is there anything fascinating going on over there? Are they ahead of the Taurus Programme in any fields? I imagine with genome editing, they would be better at producing the correct horn and leg ratios.

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    1. I have no information on the current status of the Uruz Project. Henri Kerkdijk-Otten now has its own herd of Taurus-influenced Heck cattle.
      Concerning genome editing, there currently is no project that is using this technique and there also is not the knowledge that is necessary. The alleles influencing factors such as horn shape or leg length etc. are not identified, and many morphological traits have a complicated, multifactorial background that is also influenced by developmental biology. So just switching alleles (that are not identified yet anyway) will not do it. It just can be helpful in getting rid of some recessive alleles for qualitative traits like colour, but that's it, and as I already wrote, no project is currently using this technique.

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