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Bos taurus

Cattle, taurine cattle, Eurasian cattle, or European cattle (Bos taurus or Bos primigenius taurus) are large domesticated cloven-hooved herbivores. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae and the most widespread species of the genus Bos. In taxonomy, adult females are referred to as cows and adult males are referred to as bulls. In colloquial speech however, cow is used as a common name for the species as a whole.

Cattle are commonly raised as livestock for meat (beef or veal, see beef cattle), for milk (see dairy cattle), and for hides, which are used to make leather. They are used as riding animals and draft animals (oxen or bullocks, which pull carts, plows and other implements). Another product of cattle is their dung, which can be used to create manure or fuel.

Around 10,500 years ago, taurine cattle were domesticated from as few as 80 progenitors in central Anatolia, the Levant and Western Iran. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there are approximately 1.5 billion cattle in the world as of 2018. Cattle are the main source of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, and are responsible for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, cattle became one of the first livestock animals to have a fully mapped genome.


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 the world such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United States.
• An "intact" (i.e., not castrated) adult male is called a bull.
• A father bull is called a sire with reference to his offspring.
• An adult female that has had a calf (or two, depending on regional usage) is a cow.
• A mother cow is called a dam with reference to her offspring. Often, mentions of dams imply cows kept in the herd for repeated breeding (as opposed to heifers or cows sold off sooner).
• A young female before she has had a calf of her own and who is under three years of age is called a heifer (/ˈhɛfər/ HEF-ər). A young female that has had only one calf is occasionally called a first-calf heifer. Heiferettes are either first-calf heifers or a subset thereof without potential to become lineage dams, depending on whose definition is operative.
• Young cattle (of any sex or intersex) 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 if between one and two years of age.
• Feeder cattle or store cattle are young cattle soon to be either backgrounded or sent to fattening, most especially those intended to be sold to someone else for finishing. In some regions, a distinction between stockers and feeders (by those names) is the distinction of backgrounding versus immediate sale to a finisher.
• A castrated male is called a steer in the United States; older steers are often called bullocks in other parts of the world, but in North America this term refers to a young bull. Piker bullocks are micky bulls (uncastrated young male bulls) that were caught, castrated and then later lost. 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. 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. 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 or riding 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, oxtail, or ox-liver.
• A springer is a cow or heifer close to calving.
• In all cattle species, a female twin of a bull usually becomes an infertile partial intersex, and is called a freemartin.
• A wild, young, unmarked bull is known as a micky in Australia.
• An unbranded bovine of either sex is called a maverick in the US and Canada.
• 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 and polled cattle are still terms in use for naturally hornless animals, or in some areas also for those that have been disbudded or dehorned.
• Cattle raised for human consumption are called beef cattle. Within the American beef cattle industry, 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.
• Cattle bred specifically for milk production are called milking or dairy cattle; a cow kept to provide milk for one family may be called a house cow or milker. A fresh cow is a dairy term for a cow or first-calf heifer who has recently given birth, or "freshened."
• 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.
• Various other terms for cattle or types thereof are historical; these include nowt, nolt, mart, and others.

Singular terminology issue
"Cattle" can only be used in the plural and not in the singular: it is a plurale tantum. Thus one may refer to "three cattle" or "some cattle", but not "one cattle". "One head of cattle" is a valid though periphrastic way to refer to one animal of indeterminate or unknown age and sex; otherwise no universally used single-word singular form of cattle exists in modern English, other than the sex- and age-specific terms such as cow, bull, steer and heifer. Historically, "ox" was not a sex-specific term for adult cattle, but generally this is now used only for working 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 oxtail.

Cow is in general use as a singular for the collective cattle. 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 are used as oxen or 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 and Oxford Living Dictionaries recognize the sex-nonspecific use of cow as an alternate definition, whereas Collins and the OED do not.

Colloquially, more general nonspecific terms may denote cattle when a singular form is needed. Head of cattle is usually used only after a numeral. 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. 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". 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 most common sounds made by cattle is moo (also called lowing). There are a number of other sounds made by cattle, including calves bawling, and bulls bellowing. Bawling is most common for cows after weaning of a calf. The bullroarer makes a sound similar to a bull's territorial call.

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