Herman the Bull

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Herman the Bull on display in Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Herman the Bull, Naturalis

Herman the Bull (Lelystad, The Netherlands 16 December 1990 – Leiden, The Netherlands 2 April 2004) was the first genetically modified or transgenic bovine in the world.[1][2] The announcement of his creation caused a bioethical storm.[3]


At the early embryo stage, Herman was genetically engineered in a laboratory by Gen Pharm International of Mountain View, California. Scientists microinjected cells with the human gene coding for lactoferrin. The Dutch Parliament changed law in December 1992 to allow him to reproduce. Eight calves were born in 1994 following a breeding program established at Gen Pharm's European laboratory Pharming Group N.V in Leiden, the Netherlands. All calves inherited the lactoferrin production gene.[4] With subsequent sirings, he fathered a total of 83 calves.[3]

Dutch law demanded Herman be slaughtered at the conclusion of his role in the experiment. The Dutch Agriculture Minister at the time, Jozias van Aartsen, granted him a reprieve, provided he did not have more offspring, after public and scientists rallied to his defence.[3] Together with cloned cows named Holly and Belle, he lived out his retirement at Naturalis, the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden.[3] Herman the Bull was one of the oldest bulls ever in the Netherlands.[1]


On 2 April 2004, Herman was euthanised by veterinarians from the University of Utrecht because he suffered from osteoarthritis.[1][3]

Museum specimen[edit]

Herman the Bull's hide has been preserved and mounted by taxidermists; since 15 February 2008 it is permanently on display in Naturalis. According to Naturalis, the symbolic value of the specimen is that it represents the start of a new era in the way man deals with nature, an icon of scientific progress, and the subsequent public discussion of these issues.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Naturalis (2008). Herman the Bull stabled in Naturalis. Accessed 3 January 2009 from http://www.naturalis.nl/naturalis%2Een/naturalis%2Een/i000968%2Ehtml. Retrieved 3 September 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  2. ^ De Boer, H.A. et al. (1991): Generation of transgenic dairy cattle using 'in vitro' embryo production, Biotechnology (9): 844-7
  3. ^ a b c d e Expatica News (2 April 2004). Herman the bull heads to greener pastures. Accessed on 3 January 2009 from http://www.expatica.com/nl/news/local_news/herman-the-bull-heads-to-greener-pastures--6273.html
  4. ^ U.S. Department of Agriculture (June 1994). Herman the Bull – Herman Becomes a Father. "Biotech Notes." Accessed on 3 January 2009 from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 December 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Herman the Bull at Wikimedia Commons