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Hairless Cattle

Undated antique photograph of hairless calf.

Undated antique photograph of hairless calf.

Sometimes cattle are born without hair, such as in the undated vintage photograph shown to the right.

While these calves do not usually have any other obvious health problems*, they are often smaller and may be bullied by their herd mates. Their slower growth rate is attributed to hairless animals having to use more of their energy keeping warm. Fort this reason many farmers will often euthanize these animals rather than raise them, and adult examples are rare.

However some people will keep a hairless calf as a curiosity or pet. Because they are typically kept on pasture both hypothermia and sunburn (especially with skin cracking and infection) can be a serious risk to the health of hairless cattle. So those who wish to keep their hairless specimens normal protect them with clothing, sun screen or keeping them in an enclosed area with a more controlled climate.

In most cases hairless is cause by congenital (a.k.a. "viable") hypotrichosis and is a genetically inherited trait that has turned up in a number of breeds including Hereford, Peidmontese, Angus, Holstein and Guernsey.Many consider this fault to have arisen in the Hereford but it is also possible that it had mutliple spontaneous occurrences in different breeds.

In the Hereford hairlessness is control by a simple recessive form of inheritance. The calf may be born with no hair or some hair, which may have a "frosted" silvery appearance.

The condition ranges fro partial to full absence of hair. Any hair that these calves have tends to be on the extremities and underside of the torso. The hair these calves have may be unusually long and curly.

* There is also a lethal form of hypotrichosis, not being discussed here.

Examples:

I am trying to collect examples of hairless cattle recorded online. Please drop me a comment of you know of any that are not listed.

1898

  • A report was published that a calf had bee born and raised two an age of three month with no hair on its body except below the knee.

1907

  • Jessie: "the cow with skin like a human"
hairless-cattle

1935

  • A lethal gene is described in Jersey calves which causes hairlessness along with other abnormalities.

1938

  • Alice: A hairless cow lived for four years kept warm with blankets. But reportedly still died from catching a chill.

1943

  • A hairless calf was reported in the Journal of Heredity.

1963

1989

2007

2011

2012

2013

2015

Conclusions

Because hairlessness predisposes animal to suffering and even death, carriers of this trait should not be bred. Popular bulls should be screened for this trait to avoid its proliferation.

Any hairless calf should be closely examined to ensure the condition is not a secondary symptom of more severe genetic disorder such as ectodermal dysplasia.

Environmental Causes:

In the absence of a genetic defect hairlessness may still occur in cattle due to:

  • iodine deficiency.

Citations:

Wipprecht, C., & Horlacher, W. R. (1935). A lethal gene in Jersey cattle. Journal of Heredity, 26(9), 363-368.

See also:

Comments

Karen Williams on May 15, 2016:

We had a calf born with very little hair. It is two weeks old now and seems to be doing fine. It's mother is very protective but I have some good pictures. Bull is a registered angus and mother is a grade black cow.

Penny Skinner (author) on September 24, 2015:

Wow, that's cool. Do you have pictures? They will need a bit of sun protection but otherwise can do ok.

Shasta on September 23, 2015:

We had a hairless calf born five days ago on our ranch!

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on August 08, 2012:

Another form of cattle I hadn't ever heard of. I've heard of hairless cats. Frankly, the cows are prettier! Great job! Voted up and interesting.

tamron on August 03, 2012:

I never heard of a hairless calf I imagine they don't live long. Great Hub

WildRoseBeef from Alberta, Canada on August 02, 2012:

Voted one up. Interesting hub!

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