On the Edge of Common Sense: Black cattle, white bears!
By Baxter Black
My friend and utility consultant, Stevo, often points out the obvious in a sea of obfuscating shrapnel. For example, upon seeing a sailing vessel on the high seas, I noted that sailors in the old days often did not know how to swim. Stevo commented, with the wisdom of my shoe-shine lady, “Probably made them better sailors!”
Not long ago, in Erath, we were discussing cattle genetics and breeding. In South Louisiana one can see the influence of the Brahman breed. They are bred to be heat resistant. I noted that Brangus is a popular cross in the south and southwest. He struck a pose, not unlike Rodin sitting on a chamber pot, and observed, “Did it ever occur to you that we spent decades breeding and selecting a bloodline that was heat resistant, and then made him black?”
Why are polar bears white?
Which immediately lead me to why are polar bears white? By all rights they should be black to absorb the sun’s rays in the frigid Arctic. The same logic applies to Norwegians. They should be a dark-skinned race. The closer a human lives to the equator, the lighter their skin should be.
Somewhere back in the Jurassic period when cowmen began crossing braymers (Bos indicus) with the English and Continental breeds, the subject of color had to come up. Obviously, everyone had their own box of crayons; Santa Gertrudis, Charbray, Beefmaster, Brayford, Simbrah, Gelbray, Jerbray, Brolstein, Brangalo, and White Tail Breer!
Today, in my short-sided view, it is easy to see why breeders wanted the Brangus breed black. It is the same reason most purebred breeds have accepted a black version of their own breed…MARKETING.
All things being even in a sale barn, black cattle bring a little more money than anything else. It is the “illusion of Angus.” Their reputation for grading higher has soaked into our psychomoseeze. It derived from the fact that Angus were smaller, matured quicker, and therefore started depositing fat sooner. At an equal weight and age the Angus graded higher.
Nowadays the Certified Angus Beef has built a value-added facet. It is logical to assume that other breeders will also take advantage of the color and the name. We’ll see Black-Whiteface Angus, Black Fine Wool Angus, Black Spotted, Roan, Yellow, and Buckskin Angus. I wonder if Red Angus has a black version?
All of this defies the logic of breeding a black-heat resistant cow, which takes us back to the polar bear. Maybe they can sense global warming and will keep migrating south where their white hide can reflect the equatorial sun. Nature is finally making sense. They will imitate the centuries old phenomenon of all the migrating snowbird farmers who flock to Brawley, CA, Yuma, AZ and McAllen, TX in the winter. RV parks are filled with ¾ ton Pickups…and they’re all white!
■ Baxter Black is a cowboy poet and ex-veterinarian raised in New Mexico and now lives in Benson, Ariz. He has written 12 books and recorded more than a dozen audio and video tapes, and is a syndicated columnist and radio commentator. Books, videos, CDs and tapes by Baxter Black can be purchased through www.baxterblack.com.