Animals in Elonkierto

A rooster with it’s herd of chickens greets guests at the park gate. Cattle, horses, sheep, and goats graze in the Elonkierto. All other animals except of the pigs, in the Elonkierto, are land races. Animals arrive at the park during June and stay until mid-September.

LANDRACE CHICKENS

The chicken was domesticated from a red jungle chicken (Gallus gallus) which is still found wild in most parts of Southeast Asia. During domestication, the red jungle hen has also been crossed with the grey jungle hen. Chickens were brought to Finland about 1000 years ago. Over time, these crosses between different chicken populations evolved into the Finnish landrace chicken we know today.

Chicken tolerates cool conditions reasonably well and knows how to look for food directly from nature during the summer. In addition to foraging, landraces also keep other instinctive traits, such as hatching instincts and caring for offspring. Landrace hens are also considered adept at flying and when they are free, they sometimes spend their nights in trees. The Finnish landrace chicken is known as a long-lived and healthy breed. On average, it lives to be 5-7 years old, but even a chicken over 10 years old is not a rarity. Chicken has good disease resistance, diversity of MHC-region has been found behind this.

The Finnish landrace chicken has a unique genome. There are references to both white and brown egg-laying lines, in the Finnish landrace, as well as heavier breeds of chickens, which are the ancestors of broilers. On the other hand, crossbreeding with imported breeds has been sporadic and has not left a significant impact on the genome of landraces. Based on studies, it can also be assumed that the Finnish landrace hen is closer to the eastern origin than, for example, commercial egg-laying lineages.

The preservation of the landrace chicken was formalised in 1998 by setting up the Finnish Landrace Chicken Conservation Programme. The programme is led by the Natural Resources Institute Finland and ten stocks to be preserved have been proven. However, more keepers are needed – would you be the next keeper of a landrace?

Kuva: Marketta Rinne

CATTLE

In the past, landrace breeds were mainly used in milk production. In recent decades, they have been in danger of disappearing altogether. Finn cattle consists of three different breeds, Western, Eastern, and Northern race.

Kyyttö

Eastern Finn cattle animals are also called kyyttö. There are about 1,600 purebred cows left in the herd and the population is growing nicely. Kyyttö is the oldest of our landrace cow breeds. The flanks are reddish-brown, and the belly and underbelly are white.

WESTERN FINNISH

The uniformly reddish-brown Western Finn cattle are the largest of our landraces. Western Finn cattle is one of the world’s highest-yielding domestic cattle breeds. There are about 1500 cows and the population is declining worryingly. They are usually hornless.

HORSES

There are about 20,000 Finn horses, which is one-third of the total number of horses in Finland. Warm-blooded horses are mainly used as riding and trotting horses, but the Finn horse is also suitable for work use.

GOATS

The goats of the Elonkierto are Finnish goats, of which there are approximately four and a half thousand in Finland. Their colouring varies from whitish to grey variegated, there are also brown and black specimens. Goats can be both horned and hornless. The main product is milk, which a goat produces from one and a half to six litres per day.

SHEEP

There are about 155,000 sheep in Finland. In the spring, in March–April, an ewe gives birth to one to three lambs. Sheep produce wool, fur, and meat. Sheep can also be used in landscape care. Finns eat an average of 700 grams of lamb per year, whereas pork, for example, is eaten at a rate of about 36 kilograms per year.

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