Monday, April 23, 2012

Speckled Longhorns, Then and Now

Karkur Talh:  Images of Speckled and Patterned Longhorns
Courtesy: Fliegel Jezerniczky Expeditions (Link)
   Ankole/Watusi Cattle and Herder     Unusually Patterned Texas Longhorn   
    Courtesy: Andy&Melinda blog (Link)     Courtesy: Rio Vista Ranch (Link)

Longhorn Cow, Road to Kampala         Speckled Texas Longhorn    
Courtesy:  Hilary Out of Africa Blog (Link)                 (Link)           

                Luis Aldamiz (
                mentions that Mertolenga cattle also have speckles. 


  1. The Texan and African longhorns would not seem to have any relation: Texan ones have European (taurine) horn shapes, while the African ones have the very peculiar round, crescent shaped and extremely long, African shapes. The same speckled pattern is found in other breeds like the English Longhorn, while long horns are rather common in Europe, even if not that long usually.

    In principle the Texas Longhorn's closest relatives are Iberian breeds like Alentejana or Mertolenga. The latter has the speckled pattern but the horns are smaller however. The long horns are claimed to be a selective pressure of being in the wild for centuries, in Texas itself.

  2. Texas Longhorns, and other Creole cattle, may share genetic ancestry with both African cattle and European cattle(taurines). See "Origins and genetic diversity of New World Creole cattle: inferences from mitochondrial and Y chromosome polymorphisms", Ginja et al (2009)

    It's not my point here to imply that speckles or longhorns imply an African origin.

    I thought it interesting to see that the Karkur Tahl drawings placed a speckled pattern on the cattle. Based on the fact that the pattern on the giraffes appears to be accurate, and also that multiple Karkur Tahl drawings show speckled cattle, I was curious to see what a speckled longhorn might look like. My google searches yielded images of speckled Ankole/Watusi cattle and speckled Texas Longhorns.

    I didn't find the speckled Mertolenga, but that is probably because I don't know the word for speckled in Spanish. Looking now, I see that many Mertolenga cattle also have that distinctive speckle:

    The long horns may be a result of selective pressure. I like to think that Texas Longhorns reverted to their long forgotten long horns during the two or three hundred years that they roamed wild in North America.

    As to the speckles, they probably originate as type of camouflague.

  3. "I didn't find the speckled Mertolenga"...

    I just googled "Mertolenga" and that was it: almost all individuals of this race are speckled or at the very least very spotted. Some examples:

    The Spanish word for speckled is probably "manchada" (lit. tainted or dirty but used for coat colors) or "pintada" (lit. painted - for example the word for horse coat type "pinto" is from Spanish or maybe Portuguese origin) or maybe "moteada" (dotted).

    As for the rest you give that impression: your link also suggest hypothetical African origin of Iberian cattle that would need to be qualified.

    As for Ginja 2009 is PPV but, judging from the abstract, only in the Brazilian Caracú breed (<5% of all Brazilian cattle) appears to have been reported direct African ancestry and not in any other American breed. Although of course there are some blurry issues re. African native cattle, as you mentioned in a previous entry.

  4. I agree that the complete lineage of Iberian cattle is not clear. It certainly would not be out of the question for Iberian cattle to have some African ancestry.

    The Ginja paper looked at only mitochondrial and Y chromosomes. Autosomal results could more clearly show the origin of Texas Longhorns. Their drought tolerance does suggest some ancestry from a desert like place.

    One of the problems that appears in genetic studies that try to resolve cattle of African origin from European cattle is that aurochs from both regions were likely somewhat related. Aurochs probably roamed freely up and down the Levant, into the Tigris and Euphrates, and into North Africa prior to and during domestication.


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