The old Mountain Cow of the Carpathians

Before the introduction of western Braunvieh (Schweizer/Montafoner/SwissBrown) into the Transcarpathian cattle population, the Ruthenian mountain people were keeping a small, sturdy mountain cow, which was perfectly suited for the challenges of the mountain world: harsh climate, steep “hills” and scarce food. It was giving small quantities of milk, but with a high fat and protein share, while eating only minimum amounts of food.

This small mountain breed was known to the Transcarpathian population as “our” cow distinguishing it from the bigger, imported breeds. Some documents speak of the name Risca, describing the small, reddish mountain cow of the Ruthenian Carpathians. In Romanian Carpathia the same cow could be found, eventually with small regional differences, listening to the name Mocany/Mocanitsa, meaning “the small one”.

Nowadays, Ukrainian Transcarpathia is populated by western cow breeds as Holstein, Simmentaler Pinzgau and others, whereas in the higher altitudes the dominating breed is the Buro-Carpathian Cow, which started its conquest under the Soviet Regime in Transcarpathia. The Buro-Carpathian Cow shows in fact many different faces, differences in height, colour, horn-shape etc., depending on the region and influences from other cow breeds.

The higher the mountains, the more remote the region and worse the infrastructure, another type of cow can be identified, which clearly distinguishes itself from the Buro-Carpathian cow: A cow of small statue (between 110 and 115 cm height at withers), with a compact, stout figure.

The head is comparably short, but longish, with short, thin horns, which point upwards, sometimes a little backwards, and show white colour, with dark tips. The eyes are expressive and aware. Its tongue shows a dark blue colour and is quite coarse. The nose is of light colour, as well as the obligatory dorsal stripe, that clearly stretches along its back. The back is quite straight and fitting in length to the relation of the body size (not especially long). Overall the cow gives the impression of a compact, sportive body, although quite small-boned and slender. The fur colour is a blend of black/dark brown/red, which gives the impression of a “wild” colour. The mucous membranes are dark coloured, whereas the inside of the ears are usually reddish, as well as the long hairs growing between its horns. The udder is small developed, with small teats and covered by thin hair. The milk yield of this type lies usually between 3 and 6 liters a day, with a very rich, sweet taste.

Photographs from the beginning of the 20 th century suggest that this cow type was pre-dominant in the Transcarpathian area and was the origin of the breed, that later became “Buro-Carpathian” cow in mixture with the Swiss Brown. Which is leading to the conclusion that this type of cow, which can still be found in remote Transcarpathia, is the last remnant of the old mountain cattle Risca, that used to populate the Carpathian Mountains numerously. It is also showing strong similarities to other old breeds of short- horned mountain cattle, as for example the Busha cattle.

In the Romanian Carpathians individuals of the similar type could be identified, but the influences of other cow breeds were unfortunately much higher in these individuals, than in the Transcarpathian ones. The Transcarpathian type also doesn’t show a clearly homogenous look, but differences are much smaller. They may vary in height, coloration of ears or utter, direction of the horns, but the overall impression is very similar, and a common type easily recognizable.