Beauty or Statistics: Practice and Science in Dutch Livestock Breeding, 1900–2000

By Bert Theunissen

© 2020

In the 1970s, scientists claimed that farm animal breeding was finally evolving from an art into a science. In their view, the switch to scientific breeding was as inevitable as the ongoing process of agricultural modernization. However, the art-to-science scenario is too simplistic to do justice to the complex dynamic that characterized the transformation of the field.

The livestock breeds that take centre stage in this book – dairy cattle, chickens, pigs, sheep, and horses – were products of the twentieth century. The methods used by breeders to improve their animals, however, were much older. Tracing the history of practical stockbreeding, the role of Mendelism in scientific breeding, and the emergence of quantitative genetics, Beauty or Statistics shows that the story of the scientific modernization of livestock breeding can be more fruitfully analysed from the perspective of changing cultures of breeding, taking practical, commercial, normative, and aesthetic considerations into account.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 288 pages
  • Illustrations: 24
  • Dimensions: 6.5in x 0.9in x 9.3in
Product Formats

SaveUP TO 9239

Book Formats

SKU# SP006401

  • PUBLISHED MAR 2020

    From: $67.50

    Regular Price: $90.00

    ISBN 9781487507008
  • PUBLISHED FEB 2020

    From: $67.50

    Regular Price: $90.00

Quick Overview

The long tradition of livestock breeding in the Netherlands serves as a valuable example of the delicate balance between art and science, beauty and statistics in the modernizing field of agriculture.

Beauty or Statistics: Practice and Science in Dutch Livestock Breeding, 1900–2000

By Bert Theunissen

© 2020

In the 1970s, scientists claimed that farm animal breeding was finally evolving from an art into a science. In their view, the switch to scientific breeding was as inevitable as the ongoing process of agricultural modernization. However, the art-to-science scenario is too simplistic to do justice to the complex dynamic that characterized the transformation of the field.

The livestock breeds that take centre stage in this book – dairy cattle, chickens, pigs, sheep, and horses – were products of the twentieth century. The methods used by breeders to improve their animals, however, were much older. Tracing the history of practical stockbreeding, the role of Mendelism in scientific breeding, and the emergence of quantitative genetics, Beauty or Statistics shows that the story of the scientific modernization of livestock breeding can be more fruitfully analysed from the perspective of changing cultures of breeding, taking practical, commercial, normative, and aesthetic considerations into account.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 288 pages
  • Illustrations: 24
  • Dimensions: 6.5in x 0.9in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    "Beauty or Statistics makes a significant contribution to the histories of both science and agriculture, while all of those involved in livestock breeding over the last sixty or seventy years will find part of their life stories written here."


    Paul Brassley, Department of History, University of Exeter

    "Beauty or Statistics is a marvelous book resulting from meticulous research, and advances the broadening field of studies devoted to understanding how animal breeding has evolved after the advent of the science of genetics."


    Margaret E. Derry, adjunct professor, Department of History, Associated faculty member, Campbell Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Guelph

    "In this deeply researched and eye-opening book, Theunissen authoritatively recounts the remarkably successful Dutch efforts in the twentieth century to improve cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, and horses. Pursuing the interplay of science and practice, he emphasizes that the breeders paid little attention to Mendelian genetics and a good deal to indicators of inheritable quality such as conformation and intergenerational statistics. Theunissen’s book is original, provocative, and altogether convincing, a game-changer for the history of modern animal breeding."


    Daniel J. Kevles, Department of History, Yale University
  • Author Information

    Bert Theunissen is the director of the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, and the Chair of the History of Science Program at Utrecht University.
  • Table of contents

    Acknowledgments

    Introduction

    1. Breeding for Nobility or for Production? Friesian Dairy Cattle

    The Breeders Get Organized
    Type and Tuberculosis
    The Moral Economy of Breeding
    Bloodlines and Purity
    Scientific Breeding
    Nobility or Production?
    Entrepreneurship
    Indexes
    Holsteinization
    Market and Moral Economy

    2. “The most efficient chickens in the world”

    From Side Business to Mainstay
    Hybrid Breeding
    Hy-Line and Hendrix Genetics
    From Purebreds to First-Generation Crossbreds
    Industrialization
    Developments in Breeding
    Chickens are Not Peas

    3. Breeding a Pig for all Parties

    Testing for Productive Traits
    Minkema’s Breeding Plan
    AI in Pigs
    Hybrid Pig Breeding
    The Breeder’s Eye
    Pigs are Not Chickens

    4. Just Not Like any other Sheep Breed: The Texel

    Creating the Texel
    The Swifter
    Breeding by Numbers or By Eye
    AI in Texel Sheep
    What’s in a Breed?

    5. From Farm Horse to Riding Horse: The Dutch Warmbloods
     
    Gelderlanders and Groningers
    Introducing “Hot Blood”
    Finding the Right Mix
    The Government Intervenes
    Scientific Breeding
    Balancing Practical and Scientific Methods

    Conclusions

    List of illustrations
    Sources
    Index

Related Titles