The Ennstaler bergschecke (spotted mountain cattle of the Enns river valley) is an undemanding, robust dual-purpose cattle with a long service life and graceful anatomy. The name of the cattle refers to the spotted or dappled coat of the cow as well as the specific location in the Styrian region of Austria where the cattle are raised.
Its characteristic appearance includes a fox-red color with milky white contrast markings, which remained unchanged for centuries. The four most common variants of markings are differentiated by: Helmete—the appearance of white marking on the head or neck of the cow as a “Helmet”; Kampete—appearance of white marking on the head, chest, and underbelly resembling a “harness”; Kransete—appearance of fox-red color around the sides, transforming to speckles toward the front of the animal growing in the direction of the ears and forming a sort of “wreath or tambourine” around the sides of the cow; Gnacklete—appearance of white throughout the majority of the body of the cow as if it were “nude”. These designations are often used in the different regions as synonyms for the race itself.
Archaeological skeletal finds and fur remnants prove that the origins of the bergschecke in the Eastern Alps and the Ennstal extend all the way back to Celtic cattle to the time of antiquity even 1,300 B.C. Therefore, the breed can be regarded as an autochthonous breed of the central Austrian region.
The decline of the race was mainly caused by the competition of larger and more powerful breeds, as well as by the negative selective breeding of oxen. In the 19th century the Ennstaler bergschecke could be found in Upper Styria, Upper Austria and in the western part of Lower Austria. Today, there are only about 400 animals, divided into about 30 herds. The animals are kept in small or medium-sized farms in mountainous areas with 5 to 20 cows.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the bergschecke was a market hit because of the excellent meat quality. The meat of this breed has a fine marbling, the flesh is juicy and has a special taste because the animals are fed with flavorful mountain grasses. Additionally, the high-fat milk of the Ennstaler is perfect for producing cheese and cream cheese, making the bergschecke a truly dual-purpose animal.