TaxonomyCattle were originally identified as three separate species: ''Bos taurus'', the European or "taurine" cattle (including similar types from Africa and Asia); ''Bos indicus'', the Indicine or "zebu"; and the extinct ''Bos primigenius'', the . The aurochs is ancestral to both zebu and taurine cattle. These have been reclassified as one species, ''Bos taurus'', with three subspecies: Complicating the matter is the ability of cattle to with other closely related species. Hybrid individuals and even breeds exist, not only between taurine cattle and zebu (such as the , ''Bos taurus africanus''), but also between one or both of these and some other members of the '' Bos'' yaks (the or yattle), , and . Hybrids such as the breed can even occur between taurine cattle and either species of , leading some authors to consider them part of the genus ''Bos'', as well. The hybrid origin of some types may not be obvious – for example, of the breed, the only taurine-type cattle in Nepal, found them to be a mix of taurine cattle, zebu, and yak. However, cattle cannot be successfully hybridized with more distantly related bovines such as or . 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 , Poland, in about 1627. Breeders have attempted to recreate cattle of similar appearance to aurochs by crossing traditional types of domesticated cattle, creating the breed.
Etymology''Cattle'' did not originate as the term for bovine animals. It was borrowed from Anglo-Norman , itself from medieval Latin 'principal sum of money, capital', itself derived in turn from Latin 'head'. ''Cattle'' originally meant movable , especially livestock of any kind, as opposed to (the land, which also included wild or small free-roaming animals such as chickens—they were sold as part of the land). The word is a variant of '' chattel'' (a unit of personal property) and closely related to '' '' in the economic sense. The term replaced earlier 'cattle, property', which survives today as ''fee'' (cf. , , ). The word "cow" came via (plural ''cȳ''), from Common Indo-European ( ) = "a bovine animal", compare fa|gâv|script=Latn, sa|go-|script=Latn, cy|buwch. The plural ''cȳ'' became ''ki'' or ''kie'' in Middle English, and an additional plural ending was often added, giving ''kine'', ''kien'', but also ''kies'', ''kuin'' and others. This is the origin of the now archaic English plural, "kine". The singular is coo or cou, and the plural is "kye". In older English sources such as the of the Bible, "cattle" refers to livestock, as opposed to "deer" which refers to wildlife. "Wild cattle" may refer to 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.
TerminologyIn 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 ) adult male is called a ''bull''. * 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 and is under three years of age is called a '' heifer'' ( ).Delbridge, Arthur, The Macquarie Dictionary, 2nd ed., Macquarie Library, North Ryde, 1991 A young female that has had only one calf is occasionally called a ''first-calf heifer''. * Young cattle of both sexes are called '' '' until they are , 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. * 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 '' '' (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 , and is called a '' ''. * A wild, young, unmarked bull is known as a ''micky'' in Australia.Coupe, Sheena (ed.), Frontier Country, Vol. 1, Weldon Russell Publishing, Willoughby, 1989, * An unbranded bovine of either sex is called a ''maverick'' in the US and Canada. * Neat (horned oxen, from which 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 '' ''. 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 '' ''; a cow kept to provide milk for one family may be called a '' '' 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, es, s, and elephants.
Singular terminology issue"Cattle" can only be used in the and not in the : it is a . 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 , especially adult castrated males. The term is also incorporated into the names of other species, such as the and "grunting ox" ( yak), and is used in some areas to describe certain cattle products such as ox-hide and . ''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 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 en 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. ly, more general non 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 .
Other terminologyCattle raised for human consumption are called '' ''. 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 '' s'' or ''milking cows'' (formerly ''milch cows''). Most young male offspring of dairy cows are sold for , and may be referred to as veal calves. The term ''dogies'' is used to describe orphaned calves in the context of work in the , 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 " ", extracted from the feet and legs of cattle), and "beefing" (young animal fit for slaughter). An 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 makes a sound similar to a bull's territorial call.
AnatomyCattle are large s with cloven hooves. Most breeds have , which can be as large as the or small like a . Careful genetic selection has allowed polled (hornless) cattle to become widespread.
Digestive systemCattle are s, meaning their is highly specialized to allow the use of poorly digestible plants as food. Cattle have one with four compartments, the , , , and