Saving the Czech red cow from extinction


Prague Castle or Charles Bridge are not the only things you would find on the Czech Republic’s list of cultural and historical heritage. “Červinka” – a unique reddish breed of Czech cattle – has also been included. Today there are approximately one hundred of these cows left in the country, but not a single breeding bull. Experts are now trying to find ways how to save it from extinction. I spoke to Věra Mátlová of the Institute of Animal Science. I first asked her to say a few words about this particular breed:

“In English it’s called red cattle. It has a very specific brown-reddish colour with no white spots. Its body frame is smaller than that of cattle today. It looks like an old breed that was not improved in any way.”

Why is it considered to be part of the Czech national heritage?

“It’s really the last autochthonous cattle breed not only in the Czech Republic but in the whole region of Central Europe. It was used since the 16th or 17th century. Local conditions were tailor-made for their needs and requirements. Farmers were using it not only for milking, but also for meat and as a draught animal.”

How is it possible that it is now on the verge of extinction?

“Because the conditions have changed, of course. Production enterprises are using modern breeds because they need lots of milk. The economic conditions are pushing them in this direction. This breed is absolutely not able to compete in productivity.”

How many cows are there nowadays in the Czech Republic?

“Nowadays unfortunately we have only 109 heads. During early 1990’s we found some twenty remaining heads and concentrated them into one herd. Unfortunately, we had no bull. So we used semen doses imported from Poland, since historically, the Polish red cattle was very closely related to Czech red cattle. We produced some young bulls but unfortunately their genetic profile was not as old as we hoped it would be.”

So can the red cattle breed be saved?

“Fortunately we are operating a co-called gene bank. Since 1997 we have about one hundred embryos which were produced by the original cows and Polish semen from the original breed. Last August we made a so-called embryo transfer and now we are expecting fifteen to seventeen calves to be born sometime in April and May and we hope that at least one half of them will be young bulls.”