Today, August 6, 2016 the Murnau-Werdenfels cow with the unlikely name Goat turned 20. This is a record age for cattle. To celebrate the achievement, the keepers at Hellabrunn Zoo made a birthday cake and presented it to the birthday cow earlier today.
Goat (her real name is Ziege, which means goat in German) arrived at Hellabrunn Zoo in September 2012 as part of a programme to protect the species. She was born and raised on one of the few remaining farms that still rear Murnau-Werdenfels cattle for their milk. Murnau-Werdenfels cattle are an old, dairy breed from Upper Bavaria. There are currently only about 270 individuals worldwide. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Murnau-Werdenfels is classified as extremely endangered. The threat to such a beloved native species, inspired the zoo to participate in a breeding programme for the conservation of these handsome cattle.
"In Bavaria there were once 35 breeds of cattle, now there are only five," says department head zookeeper Anja Waldinger, explaining the extreme decline of the livestock species. Historically, all of these breeds were ideally suited to the climate and geography of the region, and were mostly kept as draught oxen as well as for milk and meat production. These versatile, robust all-rounders have today been replaced almost entirely by breeds that have been optimised for milk or meat production. This has resulted in the loss of important characteristics and abilities of the Murnau-Werdenfels cattle - its genetic heritage - as well as the irretrievable loss a true cultural icon.
At Hellabrunn, Goat, the cow, assumes the role of loving grandmother of the Murnau-Werdenfels herd who helps care for the offspring of the younger cows. The keepers have grown fond of her, largely due to her even-tempered disposition and affectionate manner. "You can tell her joints hurt when it's raining. We then give her an extra layer of straw on her straw bed in the barn," says Anja Waldinger. Goat was once a real Bavarian star - a top model among cattles. She was voted the Most Beautiful Cow in Bavaria when she was younger. However, now that age has caught up with her, her favourite pastimes are eating and sleeping.
Those who want to learn more about old Goat, the Murnau-Werdenfels cattle breed and the importance of biodiversity of farm animals are invited to join the birthday party at the Children's Zoo at 2 pm on Saturday. In addition to the birthday cake for Goat, the keepers will host a talk event with plenty of exciting information.