The Belgian Blue is the bodybuilder of the bovine community.
The Belgian Blue originated in central and upper Belgium in the 19th century when native cattle were bred with Shorthorn and possibly Charolais cattle varieties. The result was the Belgian Blue -- sometimes known as the Belgian Blue-White, Belgian White and Blue Pied, Belgian White Blue, Blue or Blue Belgian -- a large, hardy and well-muscled breed of cow that was first imported to the United States in 1978.
The breed is best known for its "double-muscling," a heritable condition resulting in an increased number of muscle fibers rather than normal enlargement of individual muscle cells. This is due to mutation of the gene responsible for the expression of the protein myostatin, which inhibits muscle growth. Belgian Blues produce less myostatin, and therefore more muscle tissue than other cattle. These cows are not born with this extra muscle, but begin developing it when they are four to six weeks old.
Belgian Blues are sturdy, calve easily, have a short gestation period, and are easy to cross-breed. They do well in most climates, though extreme cold can sometimes pose a problem, as their skin is thin and they don't deposit much fat.
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The Belgian Blue is large with a rounded outline and prominent muscles. Cows weigh between 1,400 - 1,500 pounds, and bulls 2,300 - 2,500.
The shoulder, back, loin, and rump of the Belgian Blue are heavily muscled. They have a straight back, sloping rump, a prominent tail set, and fine skin. Their legs are fine but strong.
Though the Belgian Blue is named for its typical blue roan color, its coat can actually vary from white to black.
Belgian Blues have relatively small heads.
Despite its intimidating size, the Belgian Blue breed is known for its quiet temperament and compliant nature.
Due to their double muscling, Belgian Blues often experience dystocia, or difficulty birthing, and Caesarean sections are routinely used by breeders.
Body image: Jalex