Belgian Blue cattle may look like they’ve spent most of their lives pumping iron, but they owe their double muscle characteristics to years of careful breeding and genetics.
Like the name implies, this incredible bred of cattle originated in Belgium. In the second half of the 19th century, Shorthorn bulls from the United Kingdom were sent to Belgium to improve the muscle structure of the native cattle population, which was mostly of the dairy type. Until the 1960s, a balanced animal, which provided average quantities of milk and had averagely lean meat was desired, but in response to the demands of the meat industry and the general economic climate, the Belgian Blue began being bread for its meat. This is when the “double muscling” breakthrough was achieved, after farmers began breeding their most muscular animals to each other. The size of its muscles, low fat and especially the tenderness of the meat made the Belgian Blue a very popular breed.
Some people believe “double muscling” means these cattle have two of every muscle, but that isn’t the case. The term refers only to the size of each muscle, meaning that muscles of Belgian Blue cows and bulls are at least twice as developed as normal cow muscles. Genetic scientists have managed to achieve this by “breaking” the gene that controls the secretion of Myostatin – a protein that inhibits muscle growth after a certain point of development. By suppressing the production of Myostatin, they’ve created a kind of Arnold Schwarzenegger of the animal world.
If you’re having trouble understanding just how big and muscular these animals are, you should know some bulls weigh over a tonne. And to think that’s mostly muscle…Some countries, like Denmark, have advocated eliminating the strain, but considering Belgian Blue is for meat what the Holstein breed is for milk, I doubt breeders will stop raising these animal bodybuilders anytime soon.