Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Big Problem With Miniature Animals

I am not a big fan of miniature animals. While I am afraid of a 1600 lb. cow running towards me, I would hesitate to trade that full-sized cow in for a “lowline” or miniature version. The same goes for any miniaturized animals. Small is cute, I get it. But small isn’t always the best. Miniaturizing full-sized animals comes with major costs. 

One problem I have with miniaturizing animals is that small-size can come with big health problems. Miniature horses are prone to have dwarf foals. Dwarfism in horses is just as detrimental to the animal’s health and longevity as dwarfism in humans. There are also other genetic defects seen in miniatures that aren’t seen in full-sized animals. I am not sure if this is a result of the miniaturization or because many smaller sized animals are bred specifically for the pet market where good production genetics can get thrown out the window. 

 Another health problem seen in miniature animals is the inability to produce viable offspring without huge pregnancy complications. Sometimes the females are so small that they aren’t physiologically capable of having babies. Sure, they can get pregnant, but those babies may not be able to get out of mom. This is especially a problem when the miniature female is bred to a larger or full-sized male. The babies can be too big to be born successfully. Some people know that you should never, ever breed a larger male to a smaller female, but some people do not know this (again, this is a rampant issue in the pet market). 

A big problem I personally have with miniaturizing full-sized livestock is that you tend to trade in production ability for small size. To me, this is not a fair trade-off. Why would I raise and feed a mini-cow for two years and get half of the meat off of it than I would a full-sized one? I don’t see the benefit. Either way, it’s still a cow. Either way, you still have to feed it and care for it as if it were a regular cow. It may eat a little less, but it still shits just as much! 

The worst problem in my mind with miniature livestock is the tendency people have to cross breed them with full-sized animals. They think by crossing a Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat with a Nubian dairy goat they are going to get a smaller goat that produces lots of milk. Actually the opposite usually holds true – they get a large-ish goat that produces a crappy amount of milk. And if you cross a Nubian with a lovely roman nose and long ears to a Nigerian with a straight nose and straight ears, you wind up with a really ugly goat with a big nose and stupid looking ears. I really have no love in my heart for so called “mini-Nubians”, can’t you tell?! The same problem works with mini-cows mixed with full-sized. You don’t get a ¾ sized cow, you just get a big cow with teeny, short legs. Yuck. And don’t give me that BS that it is an “F1 hybrid” and that is why it’s as fugly as a port-o-potty. I am not buying it! 

What I really don’t get is that mini-animals are usually more expensive than their full-sized counterparts. Why would I pay twice as much for half as much animal?? It doesn’t make sense. A correlation to this price swap is that some people sell their stunted animals as “minis”. If a goat is underweight and stunted, it’s not a mini, no matter how small it is. IT’S A RUNT! Unless you actually bred one of its parents to an actual mini, it is never going to be a real mini. Sometimes I even see people sell immature full-sized animals as adult minis. They say that the rabbit is a Netherland Dwarf adult when it is actually a baby Californian. Boy, won’t the new owners be surprised when their “Dwarf” grows up to be 20 lbs! 

I do believe that miniature animals that are an actual breed are okay. If they evolved naturally over millions of years to be smaller in size, that’s fine. Shetland ponies and purebred Nigerian Dwarf goats are okay. They evolved to be that size and no humans purposefully bred them to be small. It’s when humans get their hands in the mix that miniaturization becomes a problem. Some animals are meant to be full-size. Some are meant to be smaller. Let’s just leave them be the size they evolved to be.

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