Thinking about "hybrid vigor"

LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin

"Crossing beef cattle offers two primary advantages: 1) crossbred animals exhibit heterosis (hybrid vigor), and 2) crossbred animals combine the strengths of the various breeds used to form the cross. Heterosis or hybrid vigor refers to the superiority in performance of the crossbred animal compared to the average of the straight bred parents."

I was looking up some highland-jersey cross pictures to get an idea of what we might see from our future calves, and came across an interesting article on crossing highlands. A couple statements in this particular article prompted me to take a more thoughtful & critical look & assess what was presented. Assessing these types of random things help keep one's mind sharp.

What I noticed is that these people sell the crosses (which I have no issue with). Connected to that however, is an interest in promoting the idea of hybrid vigor. Notice the immediate bias in putting the article together on hybrid vigor.

Including point #2 and on, I found their statements interesting.

#2: The claim is that crossing combines the strengths. That's a very lovely thought. If only that was true 100% of the time.

Now, from my experience, seeing dog crosses & bird crosses, this statement is assuming a lot. Of course the one breeding wants that result and so does the buyer, but, I know with chickens, if you wish to get the best for moving on with, it is said that one (or if you are lucky, two) out of 100 will give you that perfect animal to continue to use in your program. It's not like the others are particularly bad, they are just not superior. In doing some bird crosses, I found that very few produced what I might be wanting to pursue as far as best traits of both. Most crosses did not have that.

It is also said in the poultry world that just because you might get eggs from a ribbon winning top example of a certain chicken breed, that you can't expect all show quality out of the offspring. I'm sure that outcome is similar to other animals as well. You may have a better chance, but there are no guarantees.

With dogs, you may end up with improving one breed's characteristics, while ruining the other...or, like I've seen, instead of getting the best, you get the worst of both. What I've seen also in cattle for example, we had one heifer that was smart enough (from the cow) to be dangerous (the bull was a little crazy). Traits can be either behavioral or physical or both.

Now onto the next/last sentence. Read it carefully. They are saying that all crossbred cattle are superior over their pb/straight bred parents, but they are comparing these to the average. A breeder of pb will pick the BEST, not their average to use in their program. Considering, it is not a good comparison to try to prove superiority. Most people would miss that fact by quickly reading over the statement & so claim hybrid vigor is better than purebred, but has no solid foundation according to the statement if read properly.

So, my point here is to read claims very carefully. Ask what is the source & what interest do they have in promoting this idea? What are their key words? May, can, might, etc...are some common ones that are often used to mislead, whether on purpose or not. These words are not present in this case, but it fits the subject, but in this statement, there is a strawman-type example used to prove a point that leads one to an incorrect & unfair conclusion to make their view look like the superior view.

This type of thinking is important in more than just the breeding circles. Politics, media (newspapers, tv, internet, social media), books, religion (of all kinds worldwide), statements from leaders, friends, "experts", etc....all of these should be approached with a cautious and analytical mind. It is too easy to be misled if we don't put these skills into action. Questioning with purpose is good. That's the only way we can determine what is true.

Anyway, in light of recent discussions regarding hybrid vigor, I thought some of you might find this exercise, using this exerpt, interesting.


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,502 admin

    Very well said, @LaurieLovesLearning.

    I, too, have seen the results of cross breeding when it brings out the worst traits of both. Just because you have two winning race horses, doesn't mean you will have a winner from the offspring.

    Good reminder to be cautious of all claims made, especially if there is a profit to be made.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,911 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Cross breeding anything has to be followed by selection for the desired traits.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,019 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you for the great analysis @LaurieLovesLearning and the reminder not to take everything at face value or consider someone an expert on a subject when they are also trying to sell you the result of their opinion.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,088 ✭✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning thanks for your post and link! I am wanting to put Highland cows on our farm--- just because I like them and some of their traits. It is something I have been thinking about the last couple of years.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin

    @water2world So far, our yearling bull has been good. He likes his herd. He is top even though he is much smaller. He hasn't challenged fences. If he doesnt, the others will now be less likely to as well. He is quite calm.

    We like much about their traits. Perhaps we should start a thread on them as we find good & reliable information.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,088 ✭✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning I am trying to learn all I can about them! I told my hubby, "they are even pretty---our cows are ugly!" lol

    Happy to hear that he is calm!