Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ancient Kuri Cattle of West Africa & and the Park Color Pattern

This quite powerful and stunning image made me gasp and my jaw dropped with a stunned 'OMG'.  It was kindly sent to me by Andrew West of Cornwall, England.  Andrew tells me in regard to the caption for this image ". . . roughly translated it says they are `Gehornte Kuri-Rinder from the Buduma Area of West Africa`.

Kuri-Rinder from the Buduma Area of West Africa

If ever there was a photo or painting that made one immediately think of the kinship between the ancient auroch and both the polled and horned white Park cattle of today - this one would be it.  The distinct color pattern - which is commonly referred to as the Park color pattern by geneticists today - is a color pattern found across the world in highly distinguished breeds of great antiquity and tradition.  The Kuri is clearly another such breed, and I am pleased to have had it brought to my attention.

These Kuri Cattle have a quite mild demeanor (they are used for both milking and beef) about them in the image above and look to be moderate in size.  The average birth weight of Kuri calves is just over 50 pounds, with the females weighing about 950 lbs. Their horns are reminiscent of the depictions of the skeletal remains of aurochs.  Note the very large diameter of the base of the horns in this skeletal image.

Aurochs bull at the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen from 7400 BC

 cattle are predominantly white although various colours are often present. Kuri owners seem to have a general preference for white breeding bulls. The distinguishing characteristic of the Kuri breed is its horns: they are immense, consisting of a lightweight fibrous material with a spongy interior and a very thin external shell."  (The unique Kuri cattle of Lake Chad BasinNtombizakhe Mpofu and J.E.O. Rege,  2002)
Today the predominant cattle type in Africa is Zebu based, or bos indicus. But -- it is widely held that the indigenous cattle of Africa were bos taurus.  DNA studies of a wide variety of cattle breeds in Africa, including the Zuri, confirm that the Zuri is in fact of bos taurus descent.
"African cattle are believed, from prehistoric artistic representations, to have been Bos taurus (taurine) in morphology. . . The indicine (bos indicus) allele was observed in all West African breeds (including taurine breeds like the N’DamaMuturu, Somba, Kapsiki and Namchi) except the Kuri and shorthorn Lagune breeds." ( Mpofu & Rege, 2002)
The Zuri apparently have a unique adaptation to their native hot and humid environment.  They are excellent swimmers and often are led across portions of the waterways of Lake Chad by their herdsmen to reach new grazing areas, even grazing in water to eat fresh grass or sea grass, that tops the surface.  Their horns, while being massive and distinctive, are actually quite light in weight and thought to be an adaptation to their native environment of many thousands of years.
"Although the horns are generally very light, approximately 1% of Kuri cattle have such heavy horns that their heads are, to some extent, tipped up by the weight. It has been suggested that, by tipping back the head, the weight of the horns keeps the nostrils out of the water when swimming. The bulbous base and spongy interior of Kuri horns are assumed to be an adaptation to aid buoyancy when swimming. Some selection within the Kuri has resulted in other horn shapes such as lyre- or crescent-shaped horns."   ( Mpofu & Rege, 2002)
"In the dry season, the animals follow their herdsmen in swimming through the waters from island to island in search of waterweeds as feed . . . There are tribes who move their cattle to upland areas during the peak of the wet season and return them to the lowlands in the dry season . . . Animals are generally divided into transhumant and non-transhumant herds. The latter are comprised of lactating cows (and their calves) which are left to provide milk to the children and older people who stay behind to fish and farm. Transhumance is, however, limited to the environs of the lake, probably because of the susceptibility of the Kuri to sunlight and heat and its limited ability to trek long distances."  ( Mpofu & Rege, 2002)

I've read lots and lots of old articles from the early to mid 19th century and beyond that debated the notion, or myth, that the horned white Park cattle (primarily the Chillingham herd) that roamed the British Isles were actually some how a singularly pure and direct descendant of the 'auroch' race -- aurochs being the original truly wild and very large beasts that inhabited Europe, Asia, and Africa.   That old myth has been well debunked in the 21st century.  Even so, the color pattern was clearly present in both the European and African auroch.

The Zuri quite beautifully exhibit the Park color pattern, and particularly the recessive red that was the subject of the greatest portion of the first recorded European oral and written histories that reference both the milk-white polled and horned examples of white cattle bearing the Park color pattern.

Cave Painting in Lascaux ,France - c. 15,000 B.C.
I've run across representations of cave paintings over the years that included illustrations of white beasts, speckled beasts, and black ones with a white line down their back - which, as discussed in a February blog, has long been known as the Riggit pattern.  What I never realized is those cave paintings are considered to be drawings of the auroch - so I deserve quite a thump on the head for missing that!

Cave Painting in Lascaux, France
You can see in this first photo that the aurochs represented in this French cave painting are white, with darker noses, and actually speckled as well.  And this next one also shows a white speckled auroch, along with a horse and some other type of small animals which are portrayed as brownish in color.  The ears and nose are distinguished as a different color in both drawings, and in the first drawing you can see that the legs are dark - quite like both the horned and polled Park cattle of today.

In 2010 it was reported that an experiment had commenced to attempt to re-create an auroch from breedings amongst those modern day domestic breeds considered to be most representative of the auroch.  In this article from The Telegraph we are told that the Highland of Britain and the ". . . white Maremma breed from Italy," are two of the breeds being used in this experimental "back-breeding".  If you do a web search for images of the Maremma breed, you get results with both white examples and grey examples of this breed, also two different spellings:  Maremma and Maremmana .  Here is a photo of a "white Maremmana" . . . 

Maremmana Cattle
White Maremmana - by Amenon on Flickr

The inclusion of the white Maremma in this experiment certainly indicates that the scientific community considers the Park color pattern to be one of great antiquity that indeed was found in the indigenous aurochs of prehistoric times.  But then, I would think that most every basic, or root, coloration of modern day domestic cattle would track back to ancestral aurochs . . . What I find sad, inexplicable, and irritating is that clearly the milk white auroch of prehistoric times --  as well as the milk white cow of modern recorded history  -- were both highly revered back in days long long gone . . . NOW, they are generally found undesirable here in the USA by the commercial cattle industry . . .  thanks in large part to the promotional success of Certified Angus Beef  and the dominating USA demand for black hided cattle.

The future of British White Cattle continues to be in the hands of largely hobby farmers in the USA.  Their owners are captivated by their beauty and uniquely gentle natures, and of course the quality of the beef.  If you would like to help promote greater awareness and acceptance of polled British White Cattle in the mainstream cattle industry  - visit  the United Kingdom's British White Cattle Society web site for additional information.
Lascaux Cave Painting, France

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cattle of Texas - 165 Years or so ago . . .

This letter from President Sam Houston was printed Jan. 1846 in the American Agriculturalist & the Rural New Yorker, Volume 5.  I've included the two recipes that appended the page where I found this letter - just in case any reader is trying to decide what to whip up for dinner........

Indian Cakes.—Boil some corn meal, as mush, for five or six hours; then mix it as a batter, and add some wheat flour to make the cakes hold together and turn easily; and two or three eggs, with salt to season; bake on the griddle till brown.
Mush.—It is very common to make mush by boiling only a few minutes. This is all wrong. It should be boiled one or two hours, and if longer it will do no harm. It will be necessary to occasionally add some water to keep the mass thin and prevent burning.


"The following letter of President Houston was addressed to a gentleman in this city, and kindly handed us for publication. It is the best description of Texas Cattle we have yet seen, and we trust its publication may serve to call the attention of stock Breeders to this interesting section of our country.

Galveston, Texas, Dec. 1st, 1845.
No present to me at this time could have been more acceptable than a fine Durham, as it is my intention to carry out the object which first induced my location in this country—that of stock breeding. The present condition of our country, in consequence of annexation to the United States, will leave men free to pursue the more pleasing and profitable business of agriculture and herdsmen, than has been allowed for many years to our citizens, while under the various influences of excitement and uncertainty. Fortunately for us, we shall soon be at rest, when our natural facilities will be inquired into, and our resources developed, by those who have capital and possess enterprise.

   Doubtless no country on earth possesses equal advantages to Texas as a stock-rearing community. Stock here requires no feeding cither in summer or winter, and costs no trouble nor expense save marking and branding. Salting is not necessary, as salines or licks are in every part of the country; so that in fact, an ox weighing one thousand weight, or the most valuable cow, would not cost a farmer one cent in its rearing.

   Our prairies are clothed with the most nutritious grasses, sufficient for countless herds. Heretofore, the Durhams have not prospered in this country; but this, to my mind, is readily accounted for. They have generally come by water, and remained on the seaboard, where the insects are more numerous than in the interior; and where, too, the climate is not so congenial to the constitution as the rolling country, not only of cattle, but likewise of horses. Some Durhams have been introduced from Missouri, and remained in the interior, about one hundred miles from the seaboard, and they have done well.

   There is no good reason why blooded cattle or blooded horses should not do well in Texas, if proper care be taken of them the first year. The change of climate, from a northern to a southern latitude, will have an influence upon all animals, as experience has shown; this fact being known, should not be disregarded, while the animal is undergoing acclimation.  My opinion is, that November would be the most favorable month for the introduction of blooded stock, and that they should be fed on hay or corn-stalk fodder, with very little grain during the winter, and be kept sheltered. If this course were pursued, I am satisfied that there would not be more than one failure in twenty experiments.

Durham Bull, 1856, Purchase a Print Here
   The present stock of cattle in Texas is generally a mixture of Mexican, and cattle from the United States. They each show a distinctness of character. The Mexican (or Spanish) cattle are not so heavy or compactly built, but are taller and more active; nor do they weigh as well in proportion to appearance when slaughtered as the American cattle. They are more active than our cattle, with remarkably long, slim, and sharp horns : they are not so good for milk as ours. A cross of the breeds I consider an improvement, and for oxen decidedly so, for it blends the power of the American with the sprightliness and activity of the Mexican cattle. There is a fact in the natural history of Texas, which has heretofore claimed but little notice, and which seems to me not unimportant.

   When the first colonists, under Mr. Stephen F. Austin, arrived in Texas, they found herds of wild cattle on the Brassos and its tributary streams. There was no tradition of their origin, nor has anything satisfactory on the subject yet been ascertained. They have receded as the settlements advanced, and are now above the Falls of the Brassos (Brazos), and principally upon Little River. They are of a brindle or reddish color, and are represented by those best acquainted with them as more wild, and, when wounded, much more dangerous than the buflalo. The males have occasionally attached themselves to herds of tame cattle, and become very gentle. Calves have been caught by our pioneer settlers, and reared. The cross is said to be an improvement upon our common stock, imparting to their offspring an appearance, in color and proportion, of the wild cattle. The males I have been assured by hunters and other persons, are as large as the finest Durhams. I have seen work oxen, said to be half breeds, much larger than any others which have fallen under my observation in the United States or Texas.
Longhorn Cow in Texas - Wikipedia

   For years past I have endeavored to procure the full bloods; but in consequence of other duties I could not use the attention necessary to ensure success. I will now renew my exertions with increased interest, and I hope it will be in my power to produce a cross of the Durhams with the original Texas cow. Should I be fortunate in my efforts, I shall be happy to apprise you of the result."
Sam. Houston.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

British White Cattle for Sale in East Texas - Have a look at the Herd

Wow, talk about a drought busting stretch of rain!  It was odd to wake up this morning and realize the sound of thunder or rain on the roof had not woken me up all night - as that has been the norm for a stretch of days lasting almost a week.  Some days it seemed we were in the tropics, it would just gently rain and rain and rain all day.  I can't say for sure, but I think we've had at least 9 inches all together - our newly adopted dog decided to see how the rain guage chewed, so the only measure is from a 5 gallon bucket.  I do hope the rest of the country sees some relief soon from the drought, and maybe finds some hope in the pouring rains of the Texas/Lousiana coast that likewise suffered through drought last summer.

Here's a look at some very impatient British White cows, they had let me know a day or so before that they were somewhat irritated at the conditions in the adjoining pasture and were quite ready to move on - and they moved on in a hurry.  Can't say I blame them, the grass was looking mighty fine on the other side of the fence.

Most all the cow/calf pairs offered for sale are in this group.  If there's a particular cow in the video that catches your eye, give me a call, she may be available as well.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Day's Long Gone -

No - It's Not a Pic of a Cow - Working on Finding
One That Would Be Appropriate!
I tend to recall this poem every summer about now, so thought I'd share it again . . . hope all those overwhelmed right now with drought conditions in the USA and around the world, have some relief soon and hear the welcome patter of rain drops on their roof tops.

Slip-N-Slide Junes

It’s hot as Hades in the noonday sun.
Sweat drips and runs and cuts through the dust
Of my reddened face, as my breath comes harsh
In the June heat that once was meant for fun.
I wipe my slick brow, my eyes sting with sweat --
and my hot mind rolls back to days long gone.
. . . in the days long gone of Slip-n-Slide Junes.

We slipped our bums down the wet yellow sheet -
no worries about a third degree burn.
Barefoot and bareheaded we ran through the woods,
no fear of a clearing causing scorch to our nose,
or our brains slow baking like a casserole.
Many miles we walked the neighborhood streets,
never a care that we’d blister our feet.

And mud-puddles! What a supreme delight!
Our bare feet splashing each puddle in sight!
Many’s the time we snuck soft out the door
While the thunder rumbled and the rain still poured.
Our giggles of joy, our screams at the glory,
seem a faint memory in the days long gone.

A rope we would string between two pear trees,
and a blanket we would pitch o’er the top.
And in our TeePee we’d camp for the night,
tell scary stories, play the old Ouija,
tryin’ our darnedest to stay up all night!
Seems a faint memory in days long gone.

Hot are the days, but as well are the nights,
like a smothering blanket of clinging heat -
a hot flash like yo’ Momma don’t need,
like an evil conjure from old Ouija.
It's hot as Hades in the noon day sun -
in the June heat that once was meant for fun.
In Slip-N-Slide Junes of days long gone.

Copyright ©Katie.Flippin 2010, All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thinking of Sprigging a new Pasture? Harvest Bermuda Sod with a Two-Horse Turning Plow Instead . . .

The health of pasture grasses this season, after the really hot late summer drought we had here, is a constant topic of conversation - even if only in my own mind with my own self.  I've seen lots more weeds this year, and some even look like new varieties to me, and some of the pastures are growing thinner stands of grass than last year.  I've been exploring having the back pasture plowed up and sprigged again with one of the new bermuda grasses.  But Ouch, it costs a lot to do, and I don't know that it can be justified except in a hay farming operation where irrigation is available - unless you are really good at predicting healthy spring and early summer rains.  Otherwise, there's lots of risk your money will go right down a dry drain.

Here's a look at an old-fashioned approach to establishing bermuda grass pastures in 1898 Mississippi. 
"You will find it growing well on the sandy soil of the piny woods, and on the red clay hills and on the black lands of the prairie belt.  Since Bermuda grass very rarely, if ever, matures seed in this latitude, the only safe method to propagate it is by transplanting the roots or the underground stems. This should be done in March.
After the land has been prepared as recommended above, then with a bull-tongue or narrow shovel plow open rows two feet apart. With a short spade shave off sod two inches thick; or, a cheaper and quicker method would be take a two-horse turning plow and set it to run shallow, and turn or edge up the sod.  
The sod can then be hauled in large pieces to the field and there be broken or cut into small pieces and dropped in the drill two feet apart, and covered with a light harrow;or, a better plan would be to go over the field with a heavy roller. This would firm the loose soil around the sod and at the same time level or press down the ridges left by the plow.  If the pieces of sod are entirely covered there will be no harm done - as soon as there is moisture enough in the soil the roots will take hold and the grass make rapid growth. In this climate Bermuda will furnish excellent grazing from the middle of May until the middle of November, and often as late as the middle of December."

From:  Winter and Summer Pasture in Mississippi, 1898, by Edward Read Lloyd

Here's a look at the cows in the back pasture a couple weeks back.  This pasture was once a dedicated hay pasture and received constant commercial fertilizers like clockwork in the growing season for probably 20 years.  It has been the poorest growing pasture for years now, and I have to wonder if it's not because of all that commercial fertilizer.  Cows never grazed the land to give it back more complex natural fertilizer, it just lived on N, P, and K.