Keywords: Polissian breed, cattle-breeding, Polissya, extinct breeds of Ukraine


Introduction. According to I. V. Guzev, the National Coordinator on Animal Genetic Resources of Ukraine at the FAO until 2014, 16 domestic breeds and breed groups only from the class of mammals have disappeared in Ukraine. However, quite often even the names of these populations are not known for sure. Disappeared breeds are part of the culture and evolution of the Ukrainian nation, they carried a certain stock of genes, knowledge and traditions. Even the disappearance of knowledge about these breeds will not contribute to the revival of the history of Ukraine and may be an obstacle in understanding certain features of the region and the mentality of the nation. In the livestock breeding of the Polissia of Ukraine at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the Polissian cattle breed stands out for its endurance and exceptional adaptability to difficult natural conditions.

The purpose of the research. To systematize step by step the losses in the breeding stock of livestock of Ukraine and the opportunities that died with these losses.

Research materials and methods. Search, historical, empirical, synthetic, induction, generalization methods based on relevant historical sources are used in the work.

Research results. Polissian cattle breed of Ukraine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries occupied almost 3/5 of the entire area of the Volyn province, the north of the Kyiv province, and part of the Minsk and Grodno provinces. According to the data of the expedition survey in 1926, this livestock numbered 35.000 heads.

By origin, the Polissian breed was probably a descendant of an ancient race that lived in Polissia from time immemorial. It is assumed that the same cattle were kept by the original Slavs, who, after settling on the Vistula and the Danube, spread it there as well. Based on the analysis of the materials of Herodotus, Tacitus, Roztafinskyi, Hrushevskyi, Werner, Adamets and other scientists of the 19th century, Lypinskyi is almost sure of the statement about ancient nature of the cattle. The purity of Polissian livestock for centuries (during the Great Migration of Peoples and raids of nomads) was ensured by the presence of forests and impassable swamps of Polissia. Baranetsky notes that the Polissian race is most likely the oldest "of (all) the breeds of cattle common in Ukraine."

The natural conditions in which the breed was located, on the one hand, contributed to its purity, but, on the other hand, were an obstacle to the development of the breed. The poor plant vegetation, which did not allow the animals to display fully their potential, the almost complete lack of fodder in winter, and the sandy soils, which refused to give results without fertilizers, contributed to the development of the manure direction in the breeding of the Polissian breed. At that time, Polissia was a fairly swampy region, the soils of which were sandy or sandy loam at best. Sometimes granite massifs displayed themselves at the surface, making it difficult to cultivate the soil. A visible advantage for animal husbandry was large areas under floodplain meadows (which in some places turned into swamps) and forests. However, the waterlogging of the meadows was sometimes so significant that in rainy summers it was not possible to hay and the animals "grazed", sometimes getting stuck up to their bellies.

From the point of view of above mentioned concerning the forage, one should not have expected significant indexes of the economic useful traits of Polissian cattle. Milk productivity averaged 600–800 kg per lactation (not including milk consumed by calves). The cow Baba 12 entered the Herdbook of the Polissian breed, whose yield after the seventh calving was 3259 kg with a fat content of 5.05% (161.6 kg of milk fat). With the improvement of feeding under the conditions of the Novozybkiv research station, an average of 2.800 kg of milk with an average fat content of 4.5% was milked from Polissian cows. This experiment was conducted in 1930 on 36 cows, the highest yield was 4150 kg. Baranetsky (the head of expedition servey of the breed in 1926) said about the presence of cows with a fat percentage of 9.5%, and the sampling was done without prejudice, among random 10 cows.

Along with the fertilizing direction of productivity, animals of the Polissian breed were used for work in the field and fattening (young animals). For this purpose, mainly bulls were used, which the peasants in Polissia castrated at the age of one and a half or two years. The very fact of "fattening" looks quite strange against the background of the constant shortage of fodder and the low value of pastures. However, the peculiarity of gaining good meat on poor pastures was the advantage of Polissian cattle. Baranetsky notes that under the same conditions as other breeds, animals of the Polissian breed "gave a nice, fat carcass", while the animals of Ukrainian Whiteheaded or Simmental breeds "gave almost completely blue meat". Klasen and Solovyov (outstanding explorers of cattle) also noted the ability of Polissian cattle to quickly gaining of good qualitative meat. Baranetsky testifies the presence of "buyers who transported cattle to Moscow and Warsaw." That is, Polissian cattle could be fattened to the conditions that suited large, at that time, cities.

Phenotypically, the animals of the Polissian breed looked like all the animals of aboriginal breeds, reminding their wild ancestor: a lighter stripe along the spine, lighter tips of the horns and a black rim around the nasal mirror. By color, the massif of cattle of the region was unconsolidated and could be divided into three groups: yellow-brown cattle with darker tones (more than 50% of the population), gray of various shades and single-colored (light yellow, light and dark red). In the Kyiv province, Polissian cattle had a browner color of various shades. A characteristic feature of Polissian cattle, regardless of the main color, was the darker colored head and neck, the front surface of the legs, the switch of the tail, and the lighter colored lower surface of the abdomen and udder of cows; the nose mirror was black with a light ring around it. The skin in the vast majority of cases is rough, quite thick. The eyes are black with a black outline. The legs are also black, the tail is lighter in color than the general color.

The height of the animals was quite low –109.5–111.2 cm at the withers. Baranetsky notes that animals of this breed were the lowest among all breeds of Ukraine at that time. It is interesting that the cattle had a fairly straight back, although with sloped sacrums. Among the exterior faults, there is also a sagging belly, closeness of the hind legs in the hock joints, and a narrow, albeit deep, chest. The body was rather short, the indirect length was 126.6 cm – 131.0 cm, the skeleton was thin. According to the craniological type, the cattle belonged to the Brachyceros type.

It should be noted that with changes in the keeping conditions, the livestock was improving their exterior and phenotypic characteristics.

Conclusions. Animals of the Polissian breed distinguished with certain economically useful traits that could be used in the further selection for the profit of future generations and mitigation of certain challenges of the future, in particular, climate change.


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How to Cite
Rieznykova, N. L. (2022). POLISSIAN CATTLE BREED. Animal Breeding and Genetics, 63, 191-198. https://doi.org/10.31073/abg.63.18
Conservation of Animal Biodiversity