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definitions - Cattle

cattle (n.)

1.domesticated bovine animals as a group regardless of sex or age"so many head of cattle" "wait till the cows come home" "seven thin and ill-favored kine" - Bible"a team of oxen"

Cattle (n.)

1.(MeSH)Domesticated bovine animals of the genus Bos, usually kept on a farm or ranch and used for the production of meat or dairy products or for heavy labor.

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Merriam Webster

CattleCat"tle (kăt"t'l), n. pl. [OE. calet, chatel, goods, property, OF. catel, chatel, LL. captale, capitale, goods, property, esp. cattle, fr. L. capitals relating to the head, chief; because in early ages beasts constituted the chief part of a man's property. See Capital, and cf. Chattel.] Quadrupeds of the Bovine family; sometimes, also, including all domestic quadrupeds, as sheep, goats, horses, mules, asses, and swine.

Belted cattle, Black cattle. See under Belted, Black. -- Cattle guard, a trench under a railroad track and alongside a crossing (as of a public highway). It is intended to prevent cattle from getting upon the track. -- cattle louse (Zoöl.), any species of louse infecting cattle. There are several species. The Hæmatatopinus eurysternus and Hæmatatopinus vituli are common species which suck blood; Trichodectes scalaris eats the hair. -- Cattle plague, the rinderpest; called also Russian cattle plague. -- Cattle range, or Cattle run, an open space through which cattle may run or range. [U. S.] Bartlett. -- Cattle show, an exhibition of domestic animals with prizes for the encouragement of stock breeding; -- usually accompanied with the exhibition of other agricultural and domestic products and of implements.

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definition (more)

definition of Wikipedia

synonyms - Cattle


-A Small Cattle Drive in a Snow Storm • Abondance (cattle) • Aceh (cattle) • Achham (cattle) • Adamawa (cattle) • Albanian (cattle) • Alderney cattle • Aleutian wild cattle • Angeln cattle • Angus cattle • Ankole-Watusi (cattle) • Armorican (cattle) • Arouquesa Cattle • Aubrac cattle • Aulie-Ata Cattle • Australian Cattle Dog • Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog • Ayrshire cattle • Baggara Cattle • Battle Cattle The Card Game • Beef cattle • Belgian Red Cattle • Bestuzhev (cattle) • Bixby Cattle Company • Black Pied Dairy Cattle • Bluey (Australian cattle dog) • Boran cattle • Brahman (cattle) • British Cattle Movement Service • Brown Carpathian (cattle) • Brown Caucasian (cattle) • Bushuyev (cattle) • Butana and Kenana cattle • Buša cattle • Camargue cattle • Campbell Island Cattle • Canadienne cattle • Carora cattle • Cattle Cabin • Cattle Colony • Cattle Decapitation • Cattle Decapitation / Caninus • Cattle Egret • Cattle Health Initiative • Cattle Mutilations • Cattle Point Light • Cattle Queen of Montana • Cattle age determination • Cattle branding • Cattle breed • Cattle breeding • Cattle crush • Cattle drive • Cattle drives in the United States • Cattle feeding • Cattle grid • Cattle grub • Cattle grubs • Cattle in religion • Cattle judging • Cattle mutilation • Cattle problem of Archimedes • Cattle prod • Cattle race • Cattle raiding in Kenya • Cattle station • Cattle tank • Channel Island cattle • Charolais cattle • Chillingham Cattle • Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act 1822 • Culpepper cattle co. • Dairy cattle • Danish Red cattle • Double-muscled cattle • Douglas Lake Cattle Company • East Oregon Cattle Company Airport • Eastern Young Cattle Indicator – EYCI • Elandsputte cattle dip • Enderby Island Cattle • Ennstal Mountain Pied Cattle • Estonian native cattle • Ferrandaise cattle • Finching (cattle) • First cattle dip • Fleckvieh cattle • Friesian (cattle) • Galloway cattle • Gavin Cattle • Georgian mountain cattle • German Angus Cattle • German Black Pied Cattle • Girolando cattle • Glamorgan cattle • Glan Cattle • Gloucester cattle • Great Western Cattle Trail • Greyman Cattle • Guernsey cattle • Gyr (cattle) • Harz Red mountain cattle • Heck cattle • Hereford (cattle) • Highland cattle • Hillary Rodham cattle futures controversy • Hinterwald Cattle • Holstein cattle • Hungarian Grey cattle • Icelandic cattle • Illawarra cattle • Jersey cattle • John Pratt (Black Cattle) • Jutland cattle • Kalmyk (cattle) • Kankrej cattle and Guzerat cattle • Kazakh Whiteheaded (cattle) • Kenya Uganda cattle raids • Kenya cattle raids • Kerry cattle • Khillari cattle • Kostroma (cattle) • Kurgan (cattle) • La Reina (cattle) • Lebedyn (cattle) • Lillooet Cattle Trail • Limousin (cattle) • Limousin cattle • Lineback cattle • List of cattle breeds • Longhorn cattle • Luing cattle • Madura cattle • Maine-Anjou (cattle) • Metropolitan Cattle Market • Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association • Michigan State Fair Riding Coliseum, Dairy Cattle Building, and Agricultural Building • Montbeliarde Cattle • Murboden Cattle • Murnau-Werdenfels Cattle • Nguni cattle • Normande Cattle • North Devon cattle • Obudu Cattle Ranch • Pantaneiro cattle • Pembroke cattle • Philippine cattle • Piedmontese (cattle) • Pineywoods (cattle) • Pinzgau Cattle • Pustertal Pied Cattle • Randall Cattle • Red Fulani cattle • Red Gorbatov (cattle) • Red Mingrelian (cattle) • Red Sindhi cattle • Red Tambov cattle • Rich Hall's Cattle Drive • Ringamåla Cattle • Sahiwal cattle • Salers (cattle) • Sanga cattle • Santa Gertrudis cattle • Sayaguesa Cattle • Scotch Cattle • Shaniko Cattle Airport • Shetland cattle • Simmental Cattle • Sonepur Cattle Fair • South Devon cattle • Southern Yellow cattle and Philippine Native cattle • Sussex cattle • Swan Land and Cattle Company Headquarters • Swedish Hornless Cattle • Swedish Red Cattle • Tajima cattle • Tarentaise (cattle) • Tarentaise cattle • Texas Longhorn (cattle) • Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association • Tharparkar (cattle) • The Cattle of Helios • The Culpepper Cattle Co. • The Speed of Cattle • Tswana (cattle) • Tuli (cattle) • Tux Cattle • Tyrolese Grey Cattle • Ukrainian Grey Cattle • United Cattle Products • Verminous haemorrhagic dermatitis (cattle) • Vorderwald Cattle • Walden Street Cattle Pass • Watusi (cattle) • White Fulani cattle • Wild Cattle Island National Park • Willamette Cattle Company • Yakut (cattle) • Yurino (cattle) • Évolène Cattle

analogical dictionary



A Swiss Braunvieh cow wearing a cowbell
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Theria
Infraclass: Eutheria
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Bovinae
Genus: Bos
Species: B. primigenius
Subspecies: B. p. taurus,
B. p. indicus
Binomial name
Bos primigenius
Bojanus, 1827[1]
Trinomial name
Bos primigenius taurus,
Bos primigenius indicus

Bovine range

Bos taurus,
Bos indicus

Cattle (colloquially cows) are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius. Cattle are raised as livestock for meat (beef and veal), as dairy animals for milk and other dairy products, and as draft animals (oxen / bullocks) (pulling carts, plows and the like). Other products include leather and dung for manure or fuel. In some countries, such as India, cattle are sacred. From as few as eighty progenitors domesticated in southeast Turkey about 10,500 years ago,[2] it is estimated that there are now 1.3 billion cattle in the world today.[3] In 2009, cattle became the first livestock animal to have a fully mapped genome.[4]



Cattle were originally identified as three separate species: Bos taurus, the European or "taurine" cattle (including similar types from Africa and Asia); Bos indicus, the zebu; and the extinct Bos primigenius, the aurochs. The aurochs is ancestral to both zebu and taurine cattle. Recently these three have increasingly been grouped as one species, with Bos primigenius taurus, Bos primigenius indicus and Bos primigenius primigenius as the subspecies.[5]

  Zubron, a cross between Wisent and cattle.

Complicating the matter is the ability of cattle to interbreed with other closely related species. Hybrid individuals and even breeds exist, not only between taurine cattle and zebu (such as the sanga cattle, Bos taurus africanus) but also between one or both of these and some other members of the genus Bos – yaks (the dzo or yattle[6]), banteng, and gaur. Hybrids such as the beefalo breed can even occur between taurine cattle and either species of bison, leading some authors to consider them part of the genus Bos as well.[7] The hybrid origin of some types may not be obvious – for example, genetic testing of the Dwarf Lulu breed, the only taurine-type cattle in Nepal, found them to be a mix of taurine cattle, zebu, and yak.[8] However, cattle cannot successfully be hybridized with more distantly related bovines such as water buffalo or African buffalo.

The aurochs originally ranged throughout Europe, North Africa, and much of Asia. In historical times its range became restricted to Europe, and the last known individual died in Masovia, Poland, in about 1627.[9] Breeders have attempted to recreate cattle of similar appearance to aurochs by crossing traditional types of domesticated cattle, creating the Heck cattle breed.

Word origin

Cattle did not originate as the term for bovine animals. It was borrowed from Old French catel, itself from Latin caput, head, and originally meant movable personal property, especially livestock of any kind, as opposed to real property (the land, which also included wild or small free-roaming animals such as chickens — they were sold as part of the land).[10] The word is closely related to "chattel" (a unit of personal property) and "capital" in the economic sense.[11][12] The term replaced earlier Old English feoh "cattle, property" (cf. German: Vieh, Gothic: faihu).

The word cow came via Anglo-Saxon (plural ), from Common Indo-European gʷōus (genitive gʷowes) = "a bovine animal", compare Persian Gâv, Sanskrit go, Welsh buwch.[citation needed] The genitive plural of "cū" is "cȳna", which gave the now archaic English plural, and Scots plural, of "kine".

In older English sources such as the King James Version of the Bible, "cattle" refers to livestock, as opposed to "deer" which refers to wildlife. "Wild cattle" may refer to feral cattle or to undomesticated species of the genus Bos. Today, when used without any other qualifier, the modern meaning of "cattle" is usually restricted to domesticated bovines.[citation needed]


  A Hereford bull

In general, the same words are used in different parts of the world but with minor differences in the definitions. The terminology described here contrasts the differences in definition between the United Kingdom and other British influenced parts of world such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United States.[13]

  • An intact (i.e., not castrated) adult male is called a bull. A wild, young, unmarked bull is known as a micky in Australia.[14] An unbranded bovine of either sex is called a maverick in the USA and Canada.
  • An adult female that has had a calf (or two, depending on regional usage) is a cow.
  • A young female before she has had a calf of her own[15] and is under three years of age is called a heifer (play /ˈhɛfər/ HEF-ər).[16] A young female that has had only one calf is occasionally called a first-calf heifer.
  • Young cattle of both sexes are called calves until they are weaned, then weaners until they are a year old in some areas; in other areas, particularly with male beef cattle, they may be known as feeder-calves or simply feeders. After that, they are referred to as yearlings or stirks[17] if between one and two years of age.[18]
  • A castrated male is called a steer in the United States; older steers are often called bullocks in other parts of the world[19] but in North America this term refers to a young bull. Piker bullocks are micky bulls that were caught, castrated and then later lost.[14] In Australia, the term "Japanese ox" is used for grain fed steers in the weight range of 500 to 650 kg that are destined for the Japanese meat trade.[20] In North America, draft cattle under four years old are called working steers. Improper or late castration on a bull results in it becoming a coarse steer known as a stag in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.[21] In some countries an incompletely castrated male is known also as a rig.
  • A castrated male (occasionally a female or in some areas a bull) kept for draft purposes is called an ox (plural oxen); "ox" may also be used to refer to some carcass products from any adult cattle, such as ox-hide, ox-blood or ox-liver.[16]
  • A springer is a cow or heifer close to calving.[22]
  • In all cattle species, a female that is the twin of a bull usually becomes an infertile partial intersex, and is a freemartin.
  • Neat (horned oxen, from which neatsfoot oil is derived), beef (young ox) and beefing (young animal fit for slaughtering) are obsolete terms, although poll, pollard or polled cattle are still terms in use for naturally hornless animals, or in some areas also for those that have been disbudded.
  • Cattle raised for human consumption are called beef cattle. Within the beef cattle industry in parts of the United States, the older term beef (plural beeves) is still used to refer to an animal of either sex. Some Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and British people use the term beast, especially for single animals when the sex is unknown.[23]
  • Cattle of certain breeds bred specifically for milk production are called milking or dairy cattle;[13] a cow kept to provide milk for one family may be called a house cow or milker.
  • The adjective applying to cattle in general is usually bovine. The terms "bull", "cow" and "calf" are also used by extension to denote the sex or age of other large animals, including whales, hippopotamuses, camels, elk and elephants

Singular terminology issue

  A herd of Cattle

Cattle can only be used in the plural and not in the singular: it is a plurale tantum.[24] Thus one may refer to "three cattle" or "some cattle", but not "one cattle". There is no universally used singular form in modern English of "cattle", other than the sex- and age-specific terms such as cow, bull, steer and heifer. Historically, "ox" was a non-sex-specific term for adult cattle, but generally this is now used only for draft cattle, especially adult castrated males. The term is also incorporated into the names of other species such as the musk ox and "grunting ox" (yak), and is used in some areas to describe certain cattle products such as ox-hide and ox-tail.[25]

  A Brahman calf

"Cow" is in general use as a singular for the collective "cattle", despite the objections by those who insist it to be a female-specific term. Although the phrase "that cow is a bull" is absurd from a lexicographic standpoint, the word "cow" is easy to use when a singular is needed and the sex is unknown or irrelevant - when "there is a cow in the road", for example. Further, any herd of fully mature cattle in or near a pasture is statistically likely to consist mostly of cows, so the term is probably accurate even in the restrictive sense. Other than the few bulls needed for breeding, the vast majority of male cattle are castrated as calves and slaughtered for meat before the age of three years. Thus, in a pastured herd, any calves or herd bulls usually are clearly distinguishable from the cows due to distinctively different sizes and clear anatomical differences. Merriam-Webster, a U.S. dictionary, recognizes the non-sex-specific use of "cow" as an alternate definition,[26] whereas Collins, a UK dictionary, does not.[27]

Colloquially, more general non-specific terms may denote cattle when a singular form is needed. Australian, New Zealand and British farmers use the term "beast" or "cattle beast". "Bovine" is also used in Britain. The term "critter" is common in the western United States and Canada, particularly when referring to young cattle.[28] In some areas of the American South (particularly the Appalachian region), where both dairy and beef cattle are present, an individual animal was once called a "beef critter", though that term is becoming archaic.

Other terminology

Cattle raised for human consumption are called "beef cattle". Within the beef cattle industry in parts of the United States, the term "beef" (plural "beeves") is still used in its archaic sense to refer to an animal of either sex. Cows of certain breeds that are kept for the milk they give are called "dairy cows" or "milking cows" (formerly "milch cows"). Most young male offspring of dairy cows are sold for veal, and may be referred to as veal calves.

The term "dogies" is used to describe orphaned calves in the context of ranch work in the American west, as in "Keep them dogies moving".[29] In some places, a cow kept to provide milk for one family is called a "house cow". Other obsolete terms for cattle include "neat" (this use survives in "neatsfoot oil", extracted from the feet and legs of cattle), and "beefing" (young animal fit for slaughter).

An onomatopoeic term for one of the commonest sounds made by cattle is "moo", and this sound is also called lowing. There are a number of other sounds made by cattle, including calves bawling, and bulls bellowing. The bullroarer makes a sound similar to a territorial call made by bulls.[citation needed]


Cattle have one stomach with four compartments. They are the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum, with the rumen being the largest compartment. The reticulum, the smallest compartment, is known as the "honeycomb". Cattle sometimes consume metal objects which are deposited in the reticulum and irritation from the metal objects causes hardware disease. The omasum's main function is to absorb water and nutrients from the digestible feed. The omasum is known as the "many plies". The abomasum is like the human stomach; this is why it is known as the "true stomach".

  Dairy farming and the milking of cattle - once performed largely by hand, but now usually replaced by machine – exploits the cow's ruminant biology.

Cattle are ruminants, meaning that they have a digestive system that allows use of otherwise indigestible foods by regurgitating and rechewing them as "cud". The cud is then reswallowed and further digested by specialised microorganisms in the rumen. These microbes are primarily responsible for decomposing cellulose and other carbohydrates into volatile fatty acids that cattle use as their primary metabolic fuel. The microbes inside the rumen are also able to synthesize amino acids from non-protein nitrogenous sources, such as urea and ammonia. As these microbes reproduce in the rumen, older generations die and their carcasses continue on through the digestive tract. These carcasses are then partially digested by the cattle, allowing them to gain a high quality protein source. These features allow cattle to thrive on grasses and other vegetation.

The gestation period for a cow is nine months. A newborn calf weighs 25 to 45 kilograms (55 to 99 lb). The world record for the heaviest bull was 1,740 kilograms (3,840 lb), a Chianina named Donetto, when he was exhibited at the Arezzo show in 1955.[30] The heaviest steer was eight year old ‘Old Ben’, a Shorthorn/Hereford cross weighing in at 2,140 kilograms (4,720 lb) in 1910.[31] Steers are generally killed before reaching 750 kilograms (1,650 lb). Breeding stock usually live to about 15 years (occasionally as much as 25 years). The oldest recorded cow, Big Bertha, died at the age of 48 in 1993.

A common misconception about cattle (particularly bulls) is that they are enraged by the color red (something provocative is often said to be "like a red flag to a bull"). This is incorrect, as cattle are red-green color-blind.[32][33] The myth arose from the use of red capes in the sport of bullfighting; in fact, two different capes are used. The capote is a large, flowing cape that is magenta and yellow. The more famous muleta is the smaller, red cape, used exclusively for the final, fatal segment of the fight. It is not the color of the cape that angers the bull, but rather the movement of the fabric that irritates the bull and incites it to charge.

Having two kinds of color receptors in the cone cells in their retinas, cattle are dichromatic, as are most other non-primate land mammals.[34][35]

A cow's udder contains 2 pairs of mammary glands.


Adult weights of cows always depend on the breed. Smaller kinds of cattle such as Dexter and Jersey adults range anywhere between 600 and 1000 lbs (or 272 kg to 454 kg). Large Continental breeds such as Charolais, Marchigiana, Belgian Blue and Chianina adults range up to 1400 to 2500 lbs (or 635 kg to 1134 kg). British-breed cows such as Hereford, Angus, and Shorthorn mature between 1000 to 2000 lbs (or 454 kg to 907 kg), occasionally higher particularly with Angus and Hereford.

Bulls will always be a bit larger than cows by a few extra hundred pounds. Chianina bulls can weigh up to 3300 lbs (~1500 kg); British bulls like Angus and Hereford can weigh as little as 2000 lbs (907 kg) to as much as 3000 lbs (1361 kg).

It is difficult to generalize or average out the weight of all cattle because different kinds have different averages of weights. However, according to some sources, the average weight of all cattle is 1660 lbs (753 kg). Finishing steers in the feedlot average out to ~1400 lbs (or around 640 kg); Cows about 1600 lbs (725 kg), and Bulls about 2400 lbs (~1090 kg).

Cattle genome

In the April 24, 2009 edition of the journal Science, it was reported that a team of researchers led by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has mapped the bovine genome.[36] The scientists found that cattle have approximately 22,000 genes, and 80 percent of their genes are shared with humans, and they have approximately 1,000 genes they share with dogs and rodents, but are not found in humans. Using this bovine "HapMap", researchers can track the differences between the breeds that affect the quality of meat and milk yields.[37]

Domestication and husbandry

  Texas Longhorns are a U.S. breed

Cattle occupy a unique role in human history, domesticated since at least the early Neolithic. Modern genetic research suggests that the entire modern domestic stock may have arisen from as few as 80 aurochs tamed in the upper reaches of Mesopotamia about 10,500 years ago near the villages of Çayönü Tepesi in southeastern Turkey and Dja'de el-Mughara in northern Iraq.[2] They are raised for meat (beef cattle), dairy products and hides. They are also used as draft animals and in certain sports. Some consider cattle the oldest form of wealth, and cattle raiding consequently one of the earliest forms of theft.

  A Hereford being inspected for ticks; cattle are often restrained or confined in Cattle crushes when given medical attention.
  This young animal has a nose ring to prevent it from suckling, which is usually to assist in weaning.

Cattle are often raised by allowing herds to graze on the grasses of large tracts of rangeland. Raising cattle in this manner allows the use of land that might be unsuitable for growing crops. The most common interactions with cattle involve daily feeding, cleaning and milking. Many routine husbandry practices involve ear tagging, dehorning, loading, medical operations, vaccinations and hoof care, as well as training for agricultural shows and preparations. There are also some cultural differences in working with cattle- the cattle husbandry of Fulani men rests on behavioural techniques, whereas in Europe cattle are controlled primarily by physical means like fences.[38] Breeders use cattle husbandry to reduce M. bovis infection susceptibility by selective breeding and maintaining herd health to avoid concurrent disease.[39]

Cattle are farmed for beef, veal, dairy, leather and they are less commonly used for conservation grazing, simply to maintain grassland for wildlife – for example, in Epping Forest, England. They are often used in some of the most wild places for livestock. Depending on the breed, cattle can survive on hill grazing, heaths, marshes, moors and semi desert. Modern cows are more commercial than older breeds and, having become more specialized, are less versatile. For this reason many smaller farmers still favor old breeds, like the dairy breed of cattle Jersey.

In Portugal, Spain, Southern France and some Latin American countries, bulls are used in the activity of bullfighting; a similar activity, Jallikattu, is seen in South India; in many other countries this is illegal. Other activities such as bull riding are seen as part of a rodeo, especially in North America. Bull-leaping, a central ritual in Bronze Age Minoan culture (see Bull (mythology)), still exists in southwestern France. In modern times, cattle are also entered into agricultural competitions. These competitions can involve live cattle or cattle carcases in hoof and hook events.

In terms of food intake by humans, consumption of cattle is less efficient than of grain or vegetables with regard to land use, and hence cattle grazing consumes more area than such other agricultural production when raised on grains.[40] Nonetheless, cattle and other forms of domesticated animals can sometimes help to use plant resources in areas not easily amenable to other forms of agriculture.


The average sleep time of a domestic cow is about 4 hours a day.[41]


  Holstein cattle are the primary dairy breed, bred for high milk production.

The meat of adult cattle is known as beef, and that of calves is veal. Other animal parts are also used as food products, including blood, liver, kidney, heart and oxtail. Cattle also produce milk, and dairy cattle are specifically bred to produce large quantities of milk that is processed and sold for human consumption. Cattle today are the basis of a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide. The international trade in beef for 2000 was over $30 billion and represented only 23 percent of world beef production. (Clay 2004). The production of milk, which is also made into cheese, butter, yogurt, and other dairy products, is comparable in economic size to beef production and provides an important part of the food supply for many of the world's people. Cattle hides, used for leather to make shoes, couches and clothing, are another widespread product. Cattle remain broadly used as draft animals in many developing countries, such as India.

Environmental impact

  Cattle have been identified as a contributing factor in the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

A report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that the livestock sector is "responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions".[42] The report concludes that, unless changes are made, the damage thought to be linked to livestock may more than double by 2050, as demand for meat increases. Another concerns is manure, which if not well managed can lead to adverse environmental consequence. However, manure also is a valuable source of nutrients and organic matter when used as a fertilizer. [43] Manure was used as a fertilizer on about 15.8 million acres of US cropland in 2006, with manure from cattle accounting for nearly 70 percent of manure applications to soybeans and about 80 percent or more of manure applications to corn, wheat, barley, oats and sorghum.[44] Further, substitution of manure for synthetic fertilizers in crop production can be environmentally significant, as between 43 and 88 MJ of fossil fuel energy are used per kg of nitrogen in manufacture of synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers.[45]

One of the cited changes suggested to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is intensification of the livestock industry, since intensification leads to less land for a given level of production. This assertion is supported by studies of the US beef production system, suggesting practices prevailing in 2007 involved 8.6 percent less fossil fuel use, 16.3 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, 12.1 percent less water use and 33.0 percent less land use, per unit mass of beef produced, than those used in 1977.[46] However, these numbers included not only feedlots, but also feed production, forage-based cow-calf operations, backgrounding before cattle enter a feedlot, and animals culled from the dairy industry.[47] The percentage of cattle kept in confined feedlot conditions is increasing. In the USA, 47.7 percent of all cattle were kept in operations of 500 head or more in 2009.[48] Thus, based on size and regulatory definitions,[49] A significant percentage of beef and dairy cattle are housed in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). CAFOs are defined as "new and existing operations which stable or confine and feed or maintain for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period more than the number of animals specified." and where there is no natural grazing of forage.[50] They may be designated as small, medium and large, with varying requirements for handling water pollution issues.[49]

A CAFO that discharges pollutants is required to obtain a permit, which requires a plan to manage nutrient runoff, manure, chemicals, contaminants, and other wastewater pursuant to the Clean Water Act.[51] The regulations involving CAFO permitting have been extensively litigated.[52] Supporters of CAFO management state that wastewater and manure nutrients are safely applied to land at agronomic rates for use by forages or crops. They argue that various constituents of wastewater and manure, such as organic contaminants and pathogens, are retained, inactivated or degraded on the land with application at such rates. Research to date suggests that additional evidence is needed to test reliability of such assumptions.[53] However, the concerns raised by opponents of CAFOs have included risks of contaminated water due to feedlot runoff,[54] soil erosion, human and animal exposure to toxic chemicals, development of antibiotic resistant bacteria and an increase in E. coli contamination.[55] While research suggests some of these impacts can be mitigated by developing wastewater treatment systems[54] and planting cover crops in larger setback zones,[56] the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report in 2008 concluding that CAFOs are generally unsustainable and externalize costs.[57]

In 2009, there were an estimated 950,000 cattle operations in the USA. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) noted that [48] In 2001, the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) tallied 5,990 cattle CAFOs then regulated, consisting of beef (2,200), dairy (3,150), heifer (620) and veal operations (20).[58] Since that time EPA has established CAFOs as an enforcement priority. EPA enforcement highlights for fiscal year 2010 indicated enforcement actions against 12 cattle CAFOs for violations that included failures to obtain a permit, failures to meet the terms of a permit, and discharges of contaminated water.[59]

Grazing by cattle at low intensities can create a favourable environment for native herbs and forbs; however, in many world regions cattle are reducing biodiversity due to overgrazing.[60] A survey of refuge managers on 123 National Wildlife Refuges in the US tallied 86 species of wildlife considered positively affected and 82 considered negatively affected by refuge cattle grazing or haying.[61] Proper management of pastures, notably managed intensive rotational grazing (MIRG) and grazing at low intensities can lead to less use of fossil fuel energy, increased recapture of carbon dioxide, fewer ammonia emissions into the atmosphere, reduced soil erosion, better air quality and less water pollution.[57]

Some microbes in the cattle gut carry out anaerobic process known as methanogenesis, which produces methane. Cattle and other livestock emit about 80 to 93 Tg of methane per year,[62], accounting for an estimated 37 percent of anthropogenic methane emissions,[63] and additional methane is produced by anaerobic fermentation of manure in manure lagoons and other manure storage structures.[64] The 100-year global warming potential of methane, including effects on ozone and stratospheric water vapor, is 25 times as great as that of carbon dioxide.[65] Methane's effect on global warming is correlated with changes in atmospheric methane content, not with emissions. The net change in atmospheric methane content was recently about 1 Tg per year,[66] and in some recent years there has been no increase in atmospheric methane content.[67] Mitigation options for reducing methane emission from ruminant enteric fermentation include genetic selection, immunization, rumen defaunation, diet modification and grazing management, among others.[68][69][70] While cattle fed forage actually produce more methane than grain-fed cattle, the increase may be offset by the increased carbon recapture of pastures, which recapture three times the CO2 of cropland used for grain.[57]


Cow urine is commonly used in India for medical purposes. It is distilled and then consumed by patients seeking treatment for a wide variety of illnesses. At present, there is no conclusive medical evidence that this has any effect.[71]


  Draft Zebus in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Oxen (singular ox) are cattle trained as draft animals. Often they are adult, castrated males of larger breeds, although females and entire bulls are also used in some areas. Usually an ox is over four years old due to the need for training and to allow it to grow to full size. Oxen are used for plowing, transport, hauling cargo, grain-grinding by trampling or by powering machines, irrigation by powering pumps, and wagon drawing. Oxen were commonly used to skid logs in forests, and sometimes still are, in low-impact select-cut logging. Oxen are most often used in teams of two, paired, for light work such as carting, with additional pairs added when more power is required, sometimes up to a total of twenty or more.

An ox is a mature bovine who has learned to respond appropriately to a teamster's signals. These signals are given by verbal commands or by noise (whip cracks). Verbal commands vary according to dialect and local tradition. In one tradition in North America, the commands are:[citation needed]

  • Get up: walk forward
  • Whoa: stop
  • Back up: go backwards
  • Gee: turn right
  • Haw: turn left
  Riding an ox in Hova, Sweden.

Oxen can pull harder and longer than horses. Though not as fast as horses, they are less prone to injury because they are more sure-footed.

Many oxen are used worldwide, especially in developing countries. About 11.3 million draft oxen are used in Sub-Saharan Africa. [72] In India, the number of draft cattle in 1998 was estimated at 65.7 million head. [73] It has been estimated that about half the world's crop production depends on land preparation (such as plowing) made possible by animal traction.[74]


Religion, traditions and folklore

Hindu tradition

  In Hinduism, the cow is a symbol of wealth, strength, abundance, selfless giving and a full Earthly life.

Cattle are venerated within the Hindu religion of India.[clarification needed] According to Vedic scriptures they are to be treated with the same respect 'as one's mother' because of the milk they provide; "The cow is my mother" (Mahabharata)[75] They appear in numerous stories from the Puranas and Vedas. The deity Krishna was brought up in a family of cowherders, and given the name Govinda (protector of the cows). Also Shiva is traditionally said to ride on the back of a bull named Nandi. In ancient rural India every household had a few cows which provided a constant supply of milk and a few bulls that helped as draft animals.[citation needed]

Observant Hindus, even though they might eat meat of other animals, almost always abstain from beef, and the slaughter of cows is considered a heinous sin in mainstream Orthodox Hinduism. Slaughter of cows (including oxen, bulls and calves) is forbidden by law in several states of the Indian Union. McDonalds outlets in India do not serve any beef burgers. At one time the death sentence was imposed for killing a cow in India,[76] and as late as 1960, an individual could serve three months in jail for killing a pedestrian, but one year for injuring a cow, and life imprisonment for killing a cow.[77]

Other traditions

  Legend of the founding of Durham Cathedral is that monks carrying the body of Saint Cuthbert were led to the location by a milk maid who had lost her dun cow, which was found resting on the spot.

In heraldry

Cattle are typically represented in heraldry by the bull.


The world cattle population is estimated to be about 1.3 billion.[3] The following table shows the cattle population in 2009[80]

Africa has about 20,000,000 head of cattle, many of which are raised in traditional ways and serve partly as tokens of their owner's wealth.[citation needed]

Cattle population  (View diagram)
Region Cattle population
India 281,700,000
Brazil 187,087,000
China 139,721,000
US 96,669,000
EU-27 87,650,000
Argentina 51,062,000
Australia 29,202,000
Mexico 26,489,000
Russian Federation 18,370,000
South Africa 14,187,000
Canada 13,945,000
Other 49,756,000

See also


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