MOOving and Grooving

I drive a lot. And when I drive, my mind often does a deep dive into the oddities of our world that catch my attention. Most recently, my wandering mind wondered about…

COWS

Cows are beautiful and produce the milk that gives us so much and, yes, they taste good. But why do they exist? They are lumbering creatures that don’t seem to have the speed or dexterity other herbivores are gifted with to outwit or out maneuver predators. So how have they won out in the survival of the fittest?

A 2012 article from University College London concluded that modern cattle are descendants from a small herd of wild oxen, captured and domesticated. The wild ancestors, called aurochs, truly were wild. They were common across Europe and Asia but did not have the calm demeanors we now associate with cows. They were much larger, too. Apparently, cattle farming was never for the feint of heart.

Interesting as that is (and the article is more interesting. Take the time to read it.) My question was more about how the cow evolved structurally and managed to survive. Maybe the answer to the second part is buried in the 2012 article. Once we bred the wild out of the cows, we humans protected them from all predators but ourselves.

Structurally, the back end bothers me. All of that weight being pulled down by gravity, pushing those knees forward. It doesn’t seem like a good design. Yet, the numbers in a 2011 article from The Beef Site pointed in a different direction. Data analysis of over 1.8 million animals that found only about 13% of the animals were treated for health issues and only 16% of those were for lameness. (For math haters, that is 0.16 x 0.13 = 0.02 or 2% of the original group) Of that 2% that were lame, 70% had foot issues. Issues in joint were most commonly associated with the front legs. Huh.

Well, I’m sure that’s farther than you ever wanted to go into cow family and frames. But now, you don’t have to wonder and neither do I.

Image Credit: Florida Center for Instructional Technology. S. G. Goodrich, The Animal Kingdom Illustrated (New York: A. J. Johnson & Co., 1885) 

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