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New Zealand: Critical
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Enderby Island Cattle

A Rare Breed of New Zealand Origin

Lady, the last to be rescued from Enderby Island (Photo Karen Nicoll)
Lady, the last to be rescued from Enderby Island   (Photo by Karen Nicoll)

      Enderby Island cattle are probably the world's rarest cattle breed. Until recently only one cow, ‘Lady’ (see photo at left), survived from a herd of almost fifty – descendants of “shorthorn” cattle introduced onto subantarctic Enderby Island over a hundred years ago.

Debbie, the first calf to be born from a clone (Photo Judi Matheson)
Debbie, the first calf to be born from a clone
(Photo by Judi Matheson)

      Rescued from Enderby Island in February 1993 after the rest of the herd had been culled for conservation reasons, Lady has been the subject of intensive scientific research – including cloning – in an effort to save the breed.  (For full details of this most important Rare Breeds Society project see » Enderby Cattle Rescue Project.)

      Many of the Enderby cattle – including Lady – were black and white. They most closely resembled the cattle of the Shetland Islands. This may have been an adaptation to the harsh subantarctic environment.

Derby – pure Enderby bull
Enderby bull, Derby
(Photo by Judi Matheson)

      Lady is a celebrity in her own right – she has been seen on TV, featured on radio, and written about in many publications including Time magazine in 1997. For three years running she was exhibited at the Royal Easter Show in Auckland. At one time a threat was made on her life as a result of the genetic modification debate and she was kept under a 24-hour security watch for ten days.

      By early 2002, Lady, a bull ‘Derby’ (produced by embryo transplant), and three cloned heifers – on a farm near Christchurch – represented the total population of Enderby Island cattle in the world. Since then heifer calves have been born to two of the cloned animals in September and October 2002 (see photo of the first one above), and in 2004 another heifer calf was born (with two more calves expected). Also in 2004, the bull Derby died, but not before good quality semen had been collected from him. A grading-up and registration programme is to be organized by the Canterbury Section of the Rare Breeds Conservation Society.

The Rare Breeds Conservation Society acknowledges with gratitude the assistance of the Auckland Royal Easter Show, which has given considerable financial support to the Enderby Island Cattle research programme.

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   See also:
» Enderby Cattle Today
» Enderby Cattle Rescue Project
» Enderby Cattle Breeding Strategy
» DNA Studies of Rare Breeds  
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