Supersized bunnies, tiny cows, and frozen goats–they’re not just for children’s books anymore.
Breeders around the world covet certain animals for their economic potential. Some produce a lot of meat. Some are iridescent. Others fit well into small spaces.
Nevertheless, all of the animals featured below have two things in common. One, they have highly unusual attributes. Two, those very attributes make each a potentially lucrative business proposition:
7. Giant Guinea Pig
Cuy meat is lean, protein-packed, and versatile. Better yet, cuys, or guinea pigs, reproduce quickly, offering a steady supply of meat. One Lima official said that guinea pigs will feed a family of up to eight people for only USD $3.20. Peruvians eat about 65 million guinea pigs per year.
With meat in mind, scientists in Peru set out to supersize the cuy. 34 years after they came up with the idea, scientists introduced a giant cuy weighing about 2.2 lbs, twice the usual size. The guinea pigs were especially prized for export, allowing Peruvians living abroad to get a (big) taste of home.
6. Belgian Blue
Known as the Incredible Hulk cow, Monster cow, and Schwarzenegger cow, the Belgian Blue takes the world’s blue ribbon for buffness. The cow’s hereditary myostatin defect results in excessive muscle growth known as “double muscling.” As a result, the breed produces a large amount of lean beef, endearing it breeders looking to penetrate a health-conscious beef market—or just trying to look good with a stable full of manly cows.
5. Fainting Goat
Fainting goats are bred to fall over. A hereditary disorder, myotonia congenita, causes their muscles to freeze when they’re scared, often resulting in them collapsing on their sides. Their small size makes them ideal for small farms, where they won’t hop fences—or will scare themselves into collapsing when they try.
According to oral history, the fainting goat was a good asset protector. Handlers would keep them with other (more valuable) animals, like sheep. When a predator came around, the fainting goat would collapse, effectively sacrificing itself so that the other animals could safely run away.
4. German Giant
The German Giant, one of the biggest domestic rabbit breeds on Earth, can grow to the size of a dog. Breeders covet giant rabbits for their looks, their fur, and their meat.
Breeder Carl Szmolinsky produced Germany’s biggest rabbit in 2006. His win inspired North Korean officials to purchase twelve of Szmolinsky’s German Giants to start a food breeding program. The giant bunnies’ offspring would help alleviate North Korea’s endemic food shortages.
Szmolinsky was scheduled to fly into Pyongyang to help them establish the program. North Korean officials, however, canceled his visit. He suspects that government officials ate the rabbits. “North Korea won’t be getting anything from me any more,” the upset Szmolinsky told Spiegel in this interview.
If supermarket beef is becoming too expensive, don’t fret. You can purchase your own German Shepherd-sized minicow for a few hundred dollars. It’s tiny, meaty and, best yet, fits in your backyard. Homesteaders can choose from Irish Dexter, Mini Hereford, or Lowline Angus cows, which the Times says produces 70% of the steak of a cow twice its size. All you need is a couple of acres of grass and a little fencing. In return, you get organic, grass-fed beef, sans hormones or slaughterhouse.
2. Jersey Giant
Why eat turkey when you can buy a giant chicken instead? That’s what 19th-century breeders John and Thomas Black were thinking when they introduced the Jersey Giant. The breed, originally crossbred from three other kinds of chickens, produces hens weighing an average of 11 lbs, and cocks of 13 lbs. The meat industry initially took to the idea, but then cast Jersey Giants aside because they don’t grow fast enough.
Swim aside, goldfish. The Sunburst Orange ® GloFish ™ is genetically engineered to outshine you by miles. And unlike you, boring, traditional goldfish, the GloFish ™ also comes in Starfire Red and Electric Green.
These colorful zebrafish hold the dubious honor of being the world’s first genetically modified pet. In 1999, Singapore-based scientists inserted fluorescence proteins from coral and jellyfish into a zebrafish embryo, resulting in the GloFish’s luminescent qualities. The idea was to create a fish that would fluoresce when it came near toxins, allowing it to detect pollution.
When businesspeople caught wind of the glowing fish, they saw great pet potential. In the US, Austin-based Yorktown Technologies licensed the GloFish—initially created in Singapore—for consumer sales. People continue to buy the dazzling danios, though GMO laws in Canada, and the EU ban people from possessing them.