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.
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.
- 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.
- Jessie: "the cow with skin like a human"
- A lethal gene is described in Jersey calves which causes hairlessness along with other abnormalities.
- Alice: A hairless cow lived for four years kept warm with blankets. But reportedly still died from catching a chill.
- A hairless calf was reported in the Journal of Heredity.
- Baldy: an enterprising farmer kept his hairless calf warn by dressing it in a flannel shirt.
- A picture of a hairless calf was posted on the SteerPlanet forums.
- Four related cows in Switzerland show hairless "streaks" of skin.
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.
In the absence of a genetic defect hairlessness may still occur in cattle due to:
- iodine deficiency.
Wipprecht, C., & Horlacher, W. R. (1935). A lethal gene in Jersey cattle. Journal of Heredity, 26(9), 363-368.
- Lamb born with no wool given fluffy fleece - BBC News
A lamb born without its own wool coat is being kept warm in a borrowed fluffy fleece.