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History researcher Hilja Solala is part of a research team consisting of experts working together to gather and disseminate knowledge about the common origins Nordic mountain cattle breeds.

What can pedigrees reveal about the origins of mountain cattle? And how are the fates and fortunes of humans and cattle intertwined in the cold and barren landscapes over the centuries? Historian Hilja Solala seeks answers to these questions and sheds light on the history of Nordic mountain cattle breeds in the multidisciplinary project "3MC – Nordic mountain cattle '' coordinated by NordGen.

The multidisciplinary research team of the project

“3MC - Nordic Mountain Cattle”,

which is coordinated by NordGen, includes archaeologists, cultural researchers, geneticists, and game developers. History researcher Hilja Solala is part of a research team consisting of experts working together to gather and disseminate knowledge about the common origins and cultural heritage of the Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish mountain cattle breeds. The aim is to raise awareness for a more sustainable use of the now threatened breeds that are at risk of being outcompeted by more commercial breeds.

Decisions that shaped the mountain cattle breed

Hilja Solala's subject is

the history of domestic animals

, which she researches at T

ampere University

. For the 3MC project she investigates historical sources such as old pedigrees, descriptions of the different breeds of mountain cattle as well as information from other



"It is both important and exciting to study the history of the mountain cattle  because the breed is shaped by decisions made during the course of history. In addition, I hope that my work will be a good foundation for the rest of the research team to build on. As a part of the project, we are developing a computer game. The developers need access to historically correct stories to be able to build the plot of the game."

Combining expert knowledge 

By combining different areas of knowledge, the project will be able to draw conclusions of the common origins and the cultural heritage of the cattle breeds. Using the unique experiences and approaches as a source, the project will publish a joint scientific article that discusses how the experts have collaborated. It will provide a methodological approach which the scientific community can use to research and make plans to save endangered native breeds.

"In this project, my observations become part of something bigger. We will develop a method that is applicable to research on other landrace animals so that we can preserve them for the future. It is a great advantage to combine expert knowledge from different areas.

In a previous project

 I realized the importance of multidisciplinary research. By seeing things from several points of view, the information gathered reveals a richer and more detailed picture of our topic."  

Can this be studied?

Agricultural history is a topic that interests Hilja, who herself has a great interest in horses. Hilja's interest in agriculture and its history has led her to the research of the history

of domestic animals


"Horses and other animals are close to my heart and is a topic I really feel strongly about. During my master's studies, I attended a lecture on the history of horses. Then I thought to myself: ‘Can this be studied? Is it possible?’ Right there I realized that it is actually quite possible, and that was when the idea of devoting myself to the history of domestic animals was born."

Not an obvious choice

During her career, Hilja has had to defend her works related to the topic of history of

domestic animals

, which was often seen as

marginal or just unusual

. Now the situation is completely different.

“Studies in animal culture and history is a highly topical area of research right now. Proof of this is that the 3MC project has been granted funding. The


history of animals as a scientific subject is really trending and the interest in the subject is great – it's not just me who is interested in the subject" said Hilja with a smile and adds:


"I think there is a shift in mentality where we are redefining our relationship with animals. Since animal husbandry is no longer a part of everyday life for most people, we have partly become alienated from that part of our common heritage. People have begun to realize the importance of our landrace animals, and that their genetic resources and cultural history need to be preserved for the future. Their existence is closely intertwined with human history and that is where historical research emerges. By understanding the decisions that have shaped our development of our landraces over time, we can save them for the future."