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Mon Dec 31, 2012, 04:50 PM

90 of the world’s rarest animals are in a North England field

Alasdair Wilkins

In a 360-acre field in the county of Northumberland, there are large beasts ten times rarer than the mountain gorilla and the Siberian tiger and three times rarer than the right whale. Humans haven't even touched them in centuries.

These are the Chillingham cattle, a wild subspecies that has lived in the same field for nearly a millennium. Unlike almost all other cattle in the United Kingdom — and indeed, the world at large — these cattle aren't domesticated, and it's possible but unproven that they might be direct descendants of the wild aurochs that roamed Europe before domestication. The Chillingham cattle are smaller than their domestic counterparts, weighing in at around 650 pounds, and they are so wild that they can't tolerate any direct human contact, as game warden Richard Marsh explains in a recent BBC article:

"No human hand touches them and they receive no veterinary care either... If humans were to handle them, they would change the way in which they smell. This would lead to any such beast being rejected by the herd and they'd kill them... By this time of year they've flattened the grass to the ground and any grass there is still growing will have no goodness - it'll all have gone into the root for next year. Surrounded with a fence means they cannot wander off and find food, so we have to keep them going, probably through to about March, with a couple of round bales of hay a day."


Outside of that indirect feeding, humans have to stay well away from the Chillingham cattle, and it's an arrangement that's worked just fine since around 1240, when it's believed that the field was first enclosed. The Chillingham cattle likely weren't the beneficiaries of 13th century conservation, but rather were protected as part of an effort to keep Scottish marauders out of royal lands. Despite centuries of inbreeding, these 90 cattle — and another 20 kept at a reserve location in Scotland — are still going strong, a sort of biological oasis from the modern ecological world.

http://io9.com/5972076/90-of-the-worlds-rarest-animals-are-in-a-north-england-field

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Reply 90 of the world’s rarest animals are in a North England field (Original post)
n2doc Dec 2012 OP
indepat Dec 2012 #1
MuseRider Dec 2012 #2
geckosfeet Dec 2012 #3
intaglio Dec 2012 #4
Odin2005 Dec 2012 #5
BlancheSplanchnik Jan 2013 #7
Odin2005 Jan 2013 #8
cornbread_king Jan 2013 #9
Yo_Mama Jan 2013 #11
Solly Mack Dec 2012 #6
valerief Jan 2013 #10
muriel_volestrangler Jan 2013 #12

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 05:26 PM

1. Unbelievable: the glory and totality of life on this planet now and in earlier times

are inexplicably magnificent.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 06:10 PM

2. Very interesting.

Thanks. Wow, perhaps direct descendants of the wild aurochs. That is so cool.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 06:25 PM

3. Fabulous animals...

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 07:07 PM

4. IIRC they are all pretty much clones of each other

Genetic variation is minimal

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 09:08 PM

5. So these are Aurochs? So they are not extinct???

HOLY SHIT!!!

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #5)

Tue Jan 1, 2013, 01:48 PM

7. really!!!!!!!! SOOOOOOOO cool!

Amazing; all these centuries they've received human protection from humans!!!!! Thankfully!!!!!


Hey Odin, Happy New Year!

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Response to BlancheSplanchnik (Reply #7)

Tue Jan 1, 2013, 01:55 PM

8. You, too!

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #5)


Response to Odin2005 (Reply #5)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 10:30 PM

11. Those aren't aurochs

Aurochs weren't white - the bulls were dark with a light stripe down the back and the cows were reddish-brown. If all these animals are white, then they may have been enclosed as a king's property for religious reasons. In a lot of cultures a white animal has a special significance - in some for sacrifices and in some just for luck. For example, in some Amerindian cultures a white bull is a huge deal.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 10:47 PM

6. K&R

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 07:27 AM

10. Every billionaire will want one now.nt

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 07:31 PM

12. Only 8 cows and 5 bulls survived the 1946-47 winter

Disaster struck in 1947. Practically no hay had been made the previous year, owing to appalling weather, and the winter started in earnest at Chillingham on 22 January. For 60 days the park was snowbound, with some drifts 40 feet deep. At the end of 1946 there were 34 animals; at the end of March 1947, there were just 13 – 5 bulls and 8 cows. It took a while for breeding to resume; no calves were born until the spring of 1949. Numbers climbed back and rose steadily until the late 1970s when there was a period of instability, after which they remained steady at around 40-50 but with a slight decline to 2002. Around then, the size of the sheep flock that shared the park (under a separate grazing tenancy) began to be reduced and the flock was removed altogether in 2005. And now, there are more Chillingham cattle than there have ever been, in their recorded history.

http://www.chillinghamwildcattle.com/lascaus

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