What is livestock?

Cattle, which are generally classified under the species name Bos primigenius, are cattle that were domesticated over 10,000 years ago.

The word “cattle” is a generic term used for domesticated animals raised in an agricultural environment, with the intention of providing food, textiles, labor or fertilizer for their owners. Common examples are horses, pigs, goats, cows, sheep and poultry, although several other semi-wild animals including reindeer, yaks, camels and rheas can also be considered livestock. Humans coexisted with domesticated animals for centuries, and the emergence of animal husbandry and breeding likely contributed to a major shift in human culture.

Barley, which is often used to feed livestock.

The word can have several meanings, depending on the interpretation. Cattle are sometimes referred to as “cattle” for short, reflecting the idea that animals are property in addition to living things. These animals are both live cattle, or stock, and the stock, or basis, of the lives of farmers and the people who depend on them. Raising animals is an important part of the lives of people all over the world.

A young goat.

Purely domesticated animals such as cows and horses are radically different from their wild counterparts. In some cases, the wild ancestors of domesticated cattle are actually extinct, because humans have selectively bred domesticated versions for so long. Domesticated cattle would likely have a hard time surviving in the wild because they were bred to be smaller and more docile than a wild animal. Semi-wild animals used as livestock, such as rabbits, have thriving wild populations in addition to domestic ones.

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A young pig.

The uses for livestock are numerous. The most obvious is food, in the form of meat, dairy and egg products. Few animals, however, are bred exclusively for their meat; the most notable exception to this is the pig, which is primarily a food animal. Most animals also contribute something else to the farm. Sheep, for example, have thick woolen coats that are shorn annually to make textiles, and cows can provide physical labor as draft animals in addition to being a source of food. All cattle also produce large amounts of manure, in the form of dung, which also helps in the farm’s vegetable garden.

Rabbits are semi-wild animals that can be kept as livestock.

Some of these animals are also kept as pets and enjoy privileged positions in human society. Horses, for example, are widely ridden and used as working animals, and in many cultures they have a status that borders on the sacred, while others have no trouble eating their horses. In areas where living conditions are difficult, such as Tibet, a single farm animal like the yak can provide most of the food, shelter, and companionship; therefore, animals are highly valued.

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