From Cow
Stillborn calf due to osteopetrosis
Brachygnathia as a result of osteopetrosis

Osteopetrosis ('marble bone disease') is a genetic disease of Aberdeen Angus, Hereford, Simmental and Holstein calves worldwide[1][2].

The cause of bovine osteopetrosis is a defective activity of osteoclasts and resultant accumulation of primary spongiosa in marrow cavities[3] and formation of extremely dense, fragile bones. A large deletion mutation in SLC4A2 of chromosome 4 has been attributed to this disease manifesting in Aberdeen Angus[4].

Bovine viral diarrhea is a well recognized associative agent in this disease[5].

Affected calves are typically stillborn with a flat skull, impacted molars, shortened mandible (brachygnathia inferior) and protruding tongue[6].

DNA testing of calves and prospective cows and sires can be done to confirm a diagnosis.

A differential diagnosis would include other congenital diseases such as contractural arachnodactyly, neuropathic hydrocephalus, arthrogryposis multiplex and complex vertebral malformation.

No specific treatment is required for these calves as most succumb to their illness.


  1. Huston K & Leipold HW (1971) Hereditary osteopetrosis in Aberdeen-Angus calves. II. Genetical aspects. Ann Génet Sélanim 3:419–423
  2. Leipold HW et al (1970) Congenital osteopetrosis in Aberdeen Angus calves. Can Vet J 11:181–185
  3. Teitelbaum SL (2000) Bone resorption by osteoclasts. Science 289:1504–1508
  4. Meyers SN et al (2010) A deletion mutation in bovine SLC4A2 is associated with osteopetrosis in Red Angus cattle. BMC Genomics 11:337
  5. Scruggs DW et al (1995) Osteopetrosis, anemia, thrombocytopenia, and marrow necrosis in beef calves naturally infected with bovine virus diarrhea virus. J Vet Diagn Invest 7:555–559
  6. Wight-Carter M (2006) Inherited and BVD induced osteopetrosis in calves. Kansas Veterinary Quarterly pp:2–3