A team of international scientists have used modern technology to analyze the remains of an ancient cow with a short bulldog-like face that lived in Argentina roughly 180 years ago, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports.
The team’s new analysis revealed the now-extinct bovine — known as the niata cow — was a unique breed that did not suffer from breathing or eating problems because of its odd look. As a result, the findings could help scientists better understand how to protect threatened or endangered species.
Charles Darwin first described the strange animal after visiting the Argentinian Pampas in the 1840’s. He took notice because of its odd head shape.
Though the cow is now long extinct, there are still a few skeletons in collections around the world. Thanks to modern technology, the team managed to get a better look at the animal’s anatomy and evolution.
That revealed the cattle was a true breed because of its peculiar cranial features. It had a short snout and an underbite, which made it markedly different from other cows. However, even more interesting is that such features did not restrict niata’s breathing they do with modern bulldogs. In addition, the animals had less stress as they chewed than today’s cows.
Such information is important because niata cows reveal the extinction of a rare breed, and understanding its biology could help researchers get a better idea of how to support threatened species in the coming years. As niata managed to survive despite its facial structure, it likely did not go extinct through natural selection. Rather, it likely disappeared when humans began to favor more “optimal” breeds.