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Cattle are domesticated ungulates that are raised for beef, dairy products (milk), and leather, and used for draft (pulling plows and the like). Archaic sources such as the Bible also refer to livestock in general of various kinds as cattle. This article refers to the common modern meaning of cattle.
Young cattle are called calves. Young males are called bullocks or bull calves; young females are called heifers. Ordinarily male cattle are castrated unless needed for breeding. The castrated male is then called a steer, unless kept for draft (pulling) in which case it is called an ox. Intact males are called bulls. Adult females over two years of age (approximately) are called cows.
There is no singular equivalent to "cattle" other than the various gender and age-specific terms (though "Catron" has been proposed it is not widely accepted or even understood). "Cow" is probably the closest to being gender-neutral, although it is usually understood to mean female (females of other animals, such as whales or elephants, are also called cows.) Some Canadian farmers use the term "cattlebeast." "Neat" and "beef" are obsolescent terms.
Cattle occupy a unique role in human history. Some consider them the oldest form of wealth. Their ability to provide meat, dairy, and draft while reproducing themselves and eating nothing but grass has furthered human interests dramatically through the millennia.
The last European wild cattle, called aurochs, were killed by poachers in Masovia, Poland, in 1627, though one breeder claims to have recreated the original gene pool by careful crossing of commercial breeds.
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3 Breeds of cattle:
4 See also
Oxen (Bos taurus) (plural of ox) are cattle trained as draft animals. Most often they are adult, castrated males. Usually an ox is over four years old due to the need for training and for time to grow to full size. The term steer is used to describe animals of the same species and gender when raised solely for meat. Oxen are used for plowing, transport, hauling, grain-grinding, and wagon drawing. Oxen are sometimes used to skid logs in low-impact select cut logging.
Oxen are most often used in teams of two. A wooden yoke is fastened about their necks so that the force of draft is distributed across their shoulders. Oxen are chosen from calves with horns, since the horns hold the yoke in place when the oxen back up or slow down a wheeled load going down hills.
Oxen must be painstakingly trained from a young age. Their teamster must fashion or purchase as many as a dozen yokes of different sizes as the animals grow.
Oxen can pull harder than horses but are not as fast. There are still a substantial number of them in use worldwide.
Breeds of cattle: