The Early Foundation Animals of the Holstein Breed

All illustrations of the 12 discussed animals can be found on this poster, which was mailed along with this HI issue.

Which animals are at the foundation of the modern Holstein breed? The global AI company AI Total was eager to highlight a number of them. Together with Holstein International, a poster was created (included with this HI issue) in which twelve of these early foundation animals come into view. A compact description of their influence is provided on the poster and the accompanying article. At the time (referring to the period 1870 to 1910) their owners could have no idea of the immense influence that these early foundation animals would exert. To give you an idea: from 1852 through 1905, 7757 black and whites were transported from Europe (mostly from the Netherlands); they formed the foundation of the current Holstein population world-wide. As mentioned: of them, the twelve on the poster especially played a key role. Here are their stories.



This is the cow that according to the research has the most kinship with the entire Holstein breed. Born in March 1884 in the Netherlands; in June 1885 exported as a yearling to the US; in March 1888 good for the world record in butter production; in 1892, as an eleven-year-old, good for the world record in fat production. Yes, De Kol 2d was a real production powerhouse – the reason why her deep udder was tolerated. Even more so when it became apparent how well she performed as a brood cow! Especially via the sires Johanna Rag Apple Pabst and Sir Pietertje Ormsby Mercedes 37th, her impact on the breed is gigantic.


In 1871, in the province of North Holland (NL) the cow Johanna was born. According to insiders, she developed into “the best dairy cow of Holland” and thus in 1878 as a seven-year-old cow was transported to the US by Gerrit Miller. There she was considered “one of the best cows of the breed”; in 1880, she was celebrated at the New York State Fair as the 1st prize milking cow for all breeds. Her son Joe became an appreciated bull at the time. And you know what? In a direct line, Johanna is the 23rd dam behind Hanoverhill Starbuck, one of the fifteen most influential sires of the breed.


This name is synonymous with a legendary world record. Pietertje 2 (born in 1877) is the name of the super producer who as a five-year-old came from the Netherlands to the US. Once there, at ten years of age, with 30,318 lb/13,781 kg milk, she set a production record that would stand for 24 years! Also in the male line, the Pietertjes had tremendous breeding influence. The bull Pietertje Ormsby Mercedes 37th , born in 1912 (with Pietertje 2 at seven generations back in his pedigree), is called the foundation sire of the breed; his name appears in the pedigrees of the icons Elevation and Chief.


Here we begin with a unique Posch contribution to the Holstein breed: thanks to its phenomenal descendant Audrey Posch EX-93, the Posch family provided the longest, uninterrupted series of EX cows: 20 generations. However, this is not the only impact of the Posch family; according to the research, the greatest portion of Canada’s Holstein population descends from the successful brood cow Aaltje Posch 4th, born in the US, but brought to Canada as a yearling. She became no less than nineteen years old. Her dam Aaltje Posch (named after breeder Posch) came to the US from the Netherlands in 1884.


The bull that is considered the foundation sire of the Holstein breed is Sir Pietertje Ormsby Mercedes 37th – note there the influence of the Mercedes family. But: the Mercedes cows made waves earlier already. In 1883, the cow Mercedes 723 won a large competition among the dairy breeds: she was the cow with the highest butter production and triumphed over the Jerseys: trail blazing for the advance of Holsteins. Nineteen years later, it was a hit again, when Mercedes Julip’s Pietertje became the first cow of the Holstein breed with 29 lb/13 kg butter in seven days. She is the 4th dam behind Mercedes 37th.


In 1901, at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo (US), the Dairy Test was won by America 2d’s Pauline De Kol. As such, she set the full focus on her sire Paul de Kol, who developed into one of the greatest production transmitters of his time. Paul was the oldest son of Pauline Paul: one of the absolute top cows around the turn of the century 1899-1900. Pauline was born from an imported Dutch cow in the American state of Iowa in 1882. Especially via her son Paul, Pauline had magnificent influence, as we find his name back in the pedigrees of the key sires Chief and Bell.


‘The very best dam of the breed’. In 1923, that is already what they wrote about the fabulous Spring Brook Bess Burke. At the time, she was the only cow for all breeds(!) who had six daughters with an average of 21,822 lb/9919 kg milk and 977.9 lb/444.5 kg butter. Today, this begs the question: likely was her oldest and best daughter, Spring Brook Bess Burke 2d, not an even more prominent cow? Because she became the dam of a tremendous daughter and four influential sires, including the “one and only” Sir Pietertje Ormsby Mercedes 37th –the foundation sire of the breed. Only for that reason already is the influence of the Bess Burkes on the breed legendary.


‘There has undoubtedly never been and never will be another sire in our breed that has exercised or can exercise such a profound influence upon the history of the entire industry.’ These praiseworthy words were already written in 1930 by the authors of the book Holstein-Friesian History; they were talking about Netherland Prince, the sire whose name back then already appeared in the pedigrees of nearly all prominent Holstein animals. Netherland Prince – born in the Netherlands – enjoyed unprecedented popularity and was used non-stop for twelve years on many top animals. As such, his influence became indelible.


With the Burkes, you already read that they form the powerful maternal line behind the foundation sire of the breed: Sir Pietertje Ormsby Mercedes 37th. But… for such a unique sire, the Burkes also needed a very talented bull, of course; this would be provided by the Ormsbys. From Wisconsin, the Ormsbys had arrived in Minnesota, where foundation dam Pietertje Maid Ormsby (affectionately called “Mother Ormsby”) realized an impressive career. Among her formidable descendants, we find the outstanding transmitter Sir Pietertje Ormsby Mercedes: indeed, the sire of the unforgettable 37th.


In 1999, he was selected in HI as the “Sire of the Century”: Elevation. With linebreeding, his paternal line is completely dominated by the bull Wisconsin Admiral Burke Lad (WABL), one of the building blocks of the breed. WABL leads us to the significant foundation dam Colantha, who was imported from the Netherlands in 1884. Colantha herself was a famous show cow, while her daughter Colantha 4th’s Johanna was the world’s first milking cow with >1200 lb/545 kg butter in one year. Plus: via seventeen generations, Colantha is the direct foundation dam behind S-W-D Valiant, one of the ten most influential sires around the world.


Elevation and Chief: they are number one and two in terms of impact on the Holstein breed. In addition, it is important to report that the pedigree of Chief and the maternal line of Elevation are chockfull of the blood of a legend from 1921: the elite bull Johanna Rag Apple Pabst (JRAP). Remarkable: both the sire and the maternal grandsire of this JRAP carry lots of blood from Belle Korndyke. As such, we have arrived at our next essential foundation dam: born in 1888 in the American state of New York. Her son Pontiac Korndyke and his son King of the Pontiacs were super transmitters in their time.


Although he is the oldest bull, he remains one of the top-10 most influential bulls world-wide: Osborndale Ivanhoe. No wonder: his sons provided sires like Bell, Sheik, and Wayne, while his daughter Eve became the dam of Elevation. Ivanhoe, born in 1952, brings us via his famous dam Quality Fobes Abbekerk Gay EX-91 back to Tidy Abbekerk, the cow whose blood is considered to be the most anchored in Canada’s population (together with Aaltje Posch). Her genes also generated stars like Montvic RA Colantha Abbekerk EX-92 and ABC Reflection Sovereign.l

Image of the family of De Kol 2 at Maplecroft Farms, around 1889. De Kol 2d, second from the right, gave birth to no less than 14 calves in 14 years… without ET of course! On the right her oldest son De Kol 2d’s Prince.

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