Belgian Blue, The Monster Cow
Ever wondered how the bovine version of Arnold Schwarzenegger would look like? Probably not! But there is, in fact, a cattle breed that looks like a bovine bodybuilder on steroids. The name of this breed is Belgian Blue and as suggested by its name, it originates in Belgium. Not surprisingly, the breed is also known as the "Super" or "Monster" cow.
Contrary to what you are probably thinking, this cow is all natural. No drugs, no steroids, no exercise. And no, it is not genetically modified. It is a prime (and scary!) example of what years and years of selective breeding are capable of.
Now, let's examine this man-made monstrosity in more detail.
The super cow's origins can be tracked in central and upper Belgium, sometime in the nineteenth century. This is where the "Belgian" part of the common name comes from. The "Blue" comes from the distinctive blue color this breed used to have back then, hence Belgian Blue. However, the modern version of the breed comes in all kinds of colors, including white, blue roan, black and of course a combination of any of these.
The development of the modern version began in the 1950s, by Professor Hanset, who worked at an artificial insemination center in Liege province of Belgium. The breed is under continuous development and improvement.
The super cow was first introduced in the U.S in 1978, by Nick Tutt, an immigrant farmer from central Canada who came to Texas. Tutt brought with him some Belgian Blues and exhibited them on the local Universities. I am sure the scientists there were quite impressed!
Why Are They so Muscled and Toned?
As aforementioned, this bizarre breed of cattle has been created using exclusively selective breeding methods.
Their heavy and muscled stature is the result of a random genetic mutation that appeared about 200 years ago. Since then, breeders have kept this genetic mutation alive, by inbreeding cows that carry it.
This natural mutation inhibits the expression of a protein called myostatin. What this protein does is to limit muscle production to certain levels. Less myostatin means more muscle! In addition, the same mutation seems to also inhibit fat deposition, resulting in less fat tissue.
Here's a video by National Geographic, talking about the Super Cow and the science behind it:
How Does Their Meat Compare to Other Breeds?
One of the benefits of the Belgian Blue is that their meat is of top-notch quality, being higher in protein and lower in fat, compared to the meat produced by other, normal breeds. Furthermore, several studies have shown that their meat and milk are 100% safe for human consumption.
In the table below, you can check out some quick nutritional facts about their meat and how it compares to two other popular meat options, normal beef and chicken breast:
Breed Issues and Problems
The major issues with this breed are Dystocia-related. If you are unfamiliar with the term, dystocia means abnormal or difficult childbirth or labor. The main culprit behind this, is that Belgian Blue cows have an inherently narrower birth canal.
In addition, newborns have higher than average (compared to other breeds) dimensions, which of course makes birth even more difficult. For this reason, cesarean section is many times the only route to save both the mother and the calves. Research data shows that in some herds, C-sections account for 90 % of all births!
Another common problem is that individuals sometimes have abnormally enlarged tongues. This in turn causes a difficulty to breath and sometimes even leads to premature death, due to suffocation.
Questions & Answers
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