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Definition of Cow

Updated on November 1, 2012

Hereford Cow

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Ten years ago I would have had no idea what a Heifer, Hereford, Black Baldy, or Black Angus was. But, when my Dad retired he bought a farm and fulfilled his lifelong dream of being a farmer. Now, I have had the opportunity to learn about farm life and, specifically, about cattle. My Dad has a small heard of cattle on his farm in Southeastern Missouri.

What is a Cow?

When most people see cattle out in the field they say, "look, cows". Well the animals that you see in the field are not actually all cows, although the word has become the generic reference for a group of cattle. A cow is technically a female adult bovine who has given birth.

What is a Bull?

A bull is a male bovine that has not been castrated.

What is a Steer?

A steer is a castrated adult male.

Baby Bull Calf - Black Baldy

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What is a Calf?

A calf is a baby of either sex. To the right is a picture of baby bull calf at my parents farm.

What is a Heifer?

A heifer is a female who has not yet had a baby.

Black Angus Bull, Hereford Cows, & Black Baldy Calves

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Black Angus Bull

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Black Angus + Hereford = Black Baldy

You will notice in the pictures of my parents cattle that the cattle are referred to as Black Angus, Hereford, and Black Baldy. These are types of cattle. Just like there are different breeds of dogs like a Black Lab or a Dalmatian, there are different breeds of cattle. My parents have a Black Angus Bull. Black Angus Cattle are all black, as their name suggests. They have a blocky build. The bulls have a muscular neck where the female cows have smaller necks. Angus cows usually weigh between 950 to 1200 pounds while the bulls weigh between 1800 to 2300 pounds. The bull in the picture is named "Sparky". He weighs right around 2,000 pounds. Other characteristics of the Black Angus are on their heads. They wide foreheads, perky ears, and smaller noses.

Hereford Cows

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The adult female cows on the farm are all Herefords. This is another breed of cattle. Hereford's are mainly red with some white on their face, mane, lower legs, and belly. Hereford's are the most abundant type of cattle in the world. They are selected by farmers due to their ability to withstand many climates and their docile demeanor.

When you breed a Black Angus with a Hereford, their baby is a Black Baldy. They have white faces like the Hereford and black bodies like the Black Angus. Black Baldy's are popular because the females have good mothering instincts. Also, their black skin and udders reduce the chance of sunburn. Black Baldies are a very popular type of cattle to raise because the market for them is good. They sell well because they have the best traits of the Black Angus and Hereford's. The feeling is that genetics of the two breeds create a superior breed and the Black Baldies are able to bulk up with less feed.

Historical Significance

Cattle is considered one of the earliest animals to be domesticated. It is believed that humans have kept cattle as livestock since around 10,000 BCE. It is believed that cattle were domesticated after the domestication of sheep, goats, pigs, and dogs. These cattle served the purpose of providing meat, milk, and labor to their owners.

Other Breeds

There are over 800 breeds of cattle worldwide. Of those 800 breeds there is an estimated 1.3 billion cattle in the world. The cattle population is largest in India, followed by Brazil, China, and the United States. The 800 breeds of cattle include both wild and domesticated cattle. There are two main types of breeds. Bos indicus or Bos taurus indicus cattle are adapted to hot climates. While, Bos taurus or Bos taurus taurus are adapted to cooler climates. Some breeds of cattle have been interbred between the two. The most common cattle breeds in the United States are the Belton Galloway, Charolais, Dexter, Gelbveih, Hereford, Holstein, Limousin, Piedmontese, Red Angus, Scottish Highland, Shorthorn, Simmental, Texas Longhorn, and Watusi.

Dexter Steer

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Dexter

Dexter cattle originated in Ireland. Dexter cattle are a smaller breed of cattle. They are about half the size of Hereford cattle. Adult bulls only get up to about 1,000 pounds. Because of their small size, they are require less pasture. They also produce more milk per pound then any other breed. However, they can be breed for milk or beef. They are a good choice for a hobby farmer.

Holstein Heifer

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Holstein

Holstein cows average about 1,600 pounds. Holstein's are the trademark dairy cow. They are known for their black and white coloring. They have excellent milk production but during their lifespan the only produce milk for about six years. Besides for milk production, Holstein's can also be raised for beef.

Limousin Cow

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Limousin

The Limousin breed of cattle is one of the oldest breeds still alive today. Cave paintings in France from 20,000 years ago show pictures of cattle that look like the Limousin cattle of today. They have been used as work animals to til fields.

Piedmontese Cow

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Piedmontese

The Piedmontese breed is about 25,000 years old. The breed originated in Northwest Italy. They are one of the most muscular, hardy, and disease resistant varieties of beef cattle. Their milk is used in several Italian cheeses.

Red Angus

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Red Angus

Red Angus is a cross between English Longhorn cattle and Black Angus cattle. When produced, three of four calves were black and one was red. Aside from color, Red Angus is just like Black Angus.

Scottish Highland

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Scottish Highland

As you can see from the above picture, the Scott Highland breed of cattle is stocky, has long hair, long horns, and long eyelashes. This protects them from flies and other insects. They also have a layer of fat that protects them in harsh climates. However, they are capable of living in both cold and warm climates. However, they are originally from the cooler climate of Scotland. They will eat brush and weeds that other cattle will not. One of the oldest breeds, they are considered intelligent and even tempered. They are only used for beef.

Shorthorn Bull

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Shorthorn

Shorthorn's are also referred to as Durham cattle. They were used among the earlier American settlers because they could be used for work, milk, and beef. Shorthorn's are known for their longevity, mothering ability, ability to reproduce, as well as their adaptability.

Simmental

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Simmental

Simmental's are a Swiss breed from Western Switzerland. They are typically red and white in color but not always. 80% of the Simmental in the United States are black. In Europe they are traditionally used for milk production while in the United States they are typically used for beef. They can also be used as a work animal. They grow to a large size rapidly. This breed is one of the oldest in the world. It is also one of the most widely distributed breeds.

Texas Longhorn

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Texas Longhorn

The Texas Longhorn is an American breed of cattle that originated in Texas. It was nearly extinct due to cross breeding but has made a comeback due to it's popularity. They will eat course materials that other breeds will not. They are known for their adaptability, fertility, disease resistance, and longevity. Their horns can be up to 7 feet across. They are used for their beef as well as for riding. The below link explains why the Texas Longhorns are good for riding.

Watusi

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Watusi

While their name sounds like a dance from the 1960s this breed of cattle is actually 6,000 years older. The Watusi are from the Egyptian Nile Valley.Their horns can be up to 12 feet long but they are actually a medium sized breed. They are able to tolerate extreme climates but being from Egypt they handle hot climates particularly well. Those large horns are used to cool them down. The blood flows through the body, to the horns to cool down, and then back in to the body. Watusi cattle are used for beef.

Belted Galloway

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Belted Galloway

The Belted Galloway is also known as the Oreo Cow. Originally from Scotland, they are a cross between a Scottish solid color cow and a Dutch Belted cow. Belted Galloway's have a double coat of hair. This keeps them warm in cold climates or harsh weather. They are usually kept as ornaments for their looks. However, they can be used for beef. As there are fewer than 10,000 Belted Galloway's world wide, they are expensive.

Charolais

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Charolais

Originally from France, the Charolais is light in color , can withstand warm and cold weather, and produce large calves. They are used for milk, beef, and as work animals.

Attribution

All dividers used in this hub are used with permission granted on hub, Creating Dividers to Use on Your Hubs. http://homesteadbound.hubpages.com/hub/Creating-Dividers-to-Use-on-Your-Hubs

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    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      4 years ago from New Zealand

      Loved your hub. I'm a farmers wife have been for nearly 55 years and animals are my life. Beautiful photos, we have Angus, Herefords and Belted Galloway's, every bred of animal is different to work with, I find the Angus the easiest. All our animals are quiet as they have been hand reared not reared on a cow. Thanks for sharing with us. Hope you have many more years enjoying animals.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      5 years ago from Midwest

      I know what you mean. I have about 10 hubs in my head right now but not enough time to get them all out right away.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Flagstaff, AZ

      I will try to get out tomorrow and get the photos. I get so impatient when I come up with what looks like a really good hub. Well, I had help with coming up with this one.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      5 years ago from Midwest

      That sounds awesome! I would love to see pics of all those hay lofts.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Flagstaff, AZ

      That is exactly how I will approach the subject. How has farming changed so that the big, two story barn with hayloft is disappearing? There are several old barns around me that are part of the Nat'l Park Service. I can photograph them inside and out. I will post the photos and tell the story in between. Thanks for the idea.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      5 years ago from Midwest

      That sounds cool. We don't have a hayloft.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Flagstaff, AZ

      Since you mentioned it I have been doing some searches on haylofts. That was my favorite place on the farm.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      5 years ago from Midwest

      That sounds good. I bet if you think about it there is a lot you could teach people about farm life. I would love to read about it. I only visit my parents farm on weekends and usually it is for fun, not work. I'm sure you have a totally different perspective.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Flagstaff, AZ

      Kimberly, you know, I have never written a hub about farm life. I suppose I've considered it to have been so long ago it's irrelevant. I will have to give that some thought. Also, I'm thinking that today's Holsteins are not the original breed but were purposely mixed to increase their size. I'll look into that one.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      5 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks Cam! I bet growing up on a farm will give you all sorts of interesting hub topics!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Flagstaff, AZ

      This is a very interesting and informative hub. I grew up on a dairy farm in Indiana with Holstein cattle. Occasionally a red and white Holstein will be born because of the history of the breed. Before the 18th century there were no black and white Holsteins. Well, that is my two bits. You did a good job on this hub and made it entertaining as well with good images. up and useful

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      That is really funny that they could claim a breed was domesticated/in existence before cattle were domesticated! !! 20,000years ago Bos aurochs, wild cattle similar to the Limousin, existed in Europe-this was prior to the development of Bos taurus, the current species of cattle we have upon which our modern breeds are founded. What basis could they be using for these numbers? Even Jericho, one of the oldest human settlements, has only been around since about 7800 BC, according to Carbon 14 dating.

      I have read similar numbers on the dog. I think a lot of readers would be more interested in those numbers, as not many of us are into cattle!

      Thanks for writing back!

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      5 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks for your input DrMark1961! I did do additional research on the Piedmontese age. All of the sources I could find referenced that they were 25,000 years old. That seems to be the general consensus. This doesn't mean they were domesticated then.

      I also looked into the domestication of dogs, as you suggested. This is what I found on archeology.about.com:

      "A burial site in Germany called Bonn-Oberkassel has joint human and dog interments dated to 14,000 years ago. The earliest "nobody-argues-about-it" domesticated dog was found in China at the early Neolithic (7000-5800 BC) Jiahu site in Henan Province. European Mesolithic sites like Skateholm (5250-3700 BC) in Sweden have dog burials, proving the value of the furry beasts to hunter-gatherer settlements. Danger Cave in Utah is currently the earliest case of dog burial in the Americas, at about 11,000 years ago."

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      This was interesting. You need to do another on "what is a dog"! I would try to find a good source on the age of the Piedmontese breed, however, as that information that you have written in your article is probably just from someone trying to sell the breed. 25,000 years ago? Current research does not even indicate dogs have been domesticated that long, and dogs were domesticated long before any breed of cattle/sheep/goats/etc.

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