Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science
Breeds of Livestock - Enderby Island Cattle
Decended from Shorthorn cattle originally introduced to this small sub-antartic island by the whalers in the 1800's, this species has able to survive on a cold, wind-swept island by eating Kelp (seaweed). In mid-1980 the Enderby Cattle - as they are now called were brought to the public's attention by New Zealand's Department of Conservation because they had nearly wiped out the island's flora.
In the mid-1990s only one cow, ‘Lady’, survived from a feral herd of almost fifty – descendants of farm animals introduced onto subantarctic Enderby Island in 1894. Lady was rescued from Enderby Island and taken to mainland New Zealand in February 1993, after the rest of the herd had been culled for conservation reasons; she has since been the subject of intensive scientific research – including cloning – in an effort to save the breed. (A heifer calf taken from Enderby Island at the same time, died shortly after being recovered.) By early 2002, Lady; a bull ‘Derby’ (Lady’s son produced by embryo transplant in 1998, using semen recovered from Enderby Island during the culling operation); and three cloned heifers, all in the care of a New Zealand veterinary surgeon, represented the total population of Enderby Island cattle in the world. In 2002, heifer calves sired by Derby were born to two of the cloned heifers, but in 2003 another two calves were born dead. In September 2004, both the 2002 heifers and one of the original clones were in calf to the bull Derby. Another of the clones had died.
Many of the Enderby cattle – including all the currently existing animals – were black and white, and physically they most closely resembled the cattle of the Shetland Islands; this may have been an adaptation to the harsh subantarctic environment. Anecdotal evidence says that the cattle originally introduced to Enderby Island were British Shorthorns.
DNA testing of the Enderby cattle was carried out in 2002 and the results compared with seven other breeds: Angus, Friesian, Belted Galloway, Hereford, Shetland, Danish Shorthorn and Jersey. All except the Jersey were eliminated as not being related, and while the Jersey was the most likely contender of the breeds with which comparisons were made, the results did not prove that the Enderby cattle were of Jersey stock. No genotype data for British Shorthorns was available for comparison.
Aaron Campbell, New Zealand
Mason, I.L. 1996. A World Dictionary of Livestock Breeds, Types and Varieties. Fourth Edition. C.A.B International. 273 pp.
Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand (www.rarebreeds.co.nz)
Helmut F. Luge, Germany