Beauty or Statistics: Practice and Science in Dutch Livestock Breeding, 1900–2000
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.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 288 pages
- Illustrations: 24
- Dimensions: 6.5in x 0.9in x 9.3in
"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 InformationBert 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
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
Nobility or Production?
Market and Moral Economy
2. “The most efficient chickens in the world”
From Side Business to Mainstay
Hy-Line and Hendrix Genetics
From Purebreds to First-Generation Crossbreds
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
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
Balancing Practical and Scientific Methods
List of illustrations
Subjects and Courses