Written by By Staff Writer
Photograph by Danny Deraney, CNN
The great-grandson of a bull known as “Silent Sittin” is now known thanks to a DNA analysis technique that allowed a team of scientists to trace his lineage and the lineage of his peer herd.
Silent Sittin’s father, Sonny Tutt, was born in 1932 and now lives in Colorado. Known for hiding himself from the hungry world in a black plastic box, Silent Sittin was claimed in 1957 by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In 1959, Silent Sittin and his head disappeared from the box and returned in a black leather case in the early ’60s.
A team of scientists used DNA tests to trace Silent Sittin’s lineage to a bull belonging to his father Sonny Tutt. Credit: Trevor Brown/courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Now, more than six decades later, Silent Sittin has been recreated using DNA extracted from his remains and semen stored in a freezer at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The donors who donated their sample for the experiment were also identified.
The team came up with a version of Silent Sittin that could eat, water and be kept clean in a transparent plastic box, covered with fleece and covered in vaseline. It was then compared to the animal’s DNA and definitively proved to be Silent Sittin.
What makes Silent Sittin special from other bulls is that it doesn’t smell like bulls usually do, and his human surrogates weren’t allowed to feed him. Researchers also recorded when silent Sittin would be exposed to natural light and special protection from the elements.
“The work of scientists, researchers and animal conservationists all over the world are making today’s two-ton, 500-pound monster you see here possible. For Silent Sittin, this research means a lot to him and his keepers,” Brett Tuttle, a researcher at the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said.
Seth is a young bull who is part of Silent Sittin’s peer herd. He is named for his owner and cattle rancher Tyler Rich. Credit: Trevor Brown/courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife
While Silent Sittin’s special unusual features aren’t considered a threat to the wild population, they also made it a challenge to work with.
“What we’re doing is just like we would do with a bull. We’d have to capture them, tag them and get them back,” Richard Kemp, a conservationist and researcher, said.
To do that, scientists needed to know Silent Sittin’s history as well as who owned him. Through anonymous submissions to a fundraising campaign, researchers were able to find Seth and other members of Silent Sittin’s peer herd. Seth and his owner are named after the bull’s owner, cattle rancher Tyler Rich.