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What are Taurine Cattle?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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When people think of cattle, they usually think of taurine cattle, because they are widely distributed around the world on farms and dairies. The other species of domesticated cattle, the zebu, is found in parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. Especially in Europe and the Americas, people are often unaware that an entirely separate species of domesticated cattle exists in the world, because they are so familiar with taurine cattle.

Both taurine cattle and zebus are derived from aurochs, wild cattle which once roamed Europe and Asia. Evidence suggests that both species also developed in India, and that taurine cattle were probably further refined in Europe. Taurine cattle are bred for both milk and meat, and sometimes they are used as draft animals as well, although this is relatively unusual. They vary widely in size and body structure, with some taurine cattle being lean and angular, while others are plump and rounded, reflecting the different uses for which they are developed.

There is some dispute over the scientific name for taurine cattle. Originally, Bos taurus was used, while aurochs were known as Bos primigenius and zebu as Bos indicus. However, investigation of these animals has suggested that they may actually all be in the same species, Bos primigenius, with aurochs, zebu, and taurine cattle being different subspecies, in which case taurine cattle should be known as Bos primigenius taurus. This differentiation may seem petty, but it is important, because it reflects the genetic heritage of these cattle.

Domesticated cattle have been raised in Europe for centuries, and a number of very distinct breeds have been developed, from gentle Jerseys for milking to hefty Angus for beef. Historically, ownership of cattle was often a sign of wealth, because taurine cattle require a lot of resources to be supported, unlike sheep and goats. Taurine cattle are also more delicate than zebus, and they tend to be more susceptible to stress, disease, drought, and poor food conditions.

Even today, ownership of cattle and consumption of cattle products is a status symbol in many regions of the world. Among conservationists, this has been a cause of some concern, because cattle can be very hard on the environment, especially when native forests are cleared to make way for cattle. Some biologists are also concerned about the increasing homogeneity of taurine cattle breeds, warning that some rare, unusual, and special cattle breeds could be lost forever without intervention.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By OeKc05 — On Sep 17, 2011

My dad has raised taurine cattle all his life, and they vary greatly in appearance. He has everything from Texas longhorns to Jersey cows, and he keeps them all in one pasture. They seem to get along great.

A few of the longhorn cattle have shown signs of aggression. When they do this, he has the sharp ends of their horns trimmed and flattened so that they cannot hurt other animals or humans. If you see one with its original sharp horns, you know that it is harmless.

The Jersey cows are the most laid back of the herd. He milks them, and they don’t even mind it. They are the ones I feel safest around.

By lighth0se33 — On Sep 17, 2011

I have noticed that all taurine cows act the same when their calves are taken away. My cousin lives next door to me, and he sells his calves once they are weaned. The mothers grieve for days.

They start to moo loudly. At first, it just sounds like a regular moo. However, they continue to moo all through the night and into the next day. Over time, their voices start to crack, and eventually, they end up emitting hoarse noises sprinkled with whispers.

I hate it when he sells his cows, because I know that I won’t be able to sleep for several nights. I feel bad for the mothers, but I really wish they would hush.

By kylee07drg — On Sep 16, 2011

I have been around taurine cattle all my life. Though my family and I don’t own any personally, several of our neighbors do.

Red and white, black, and brown cattle are very common in our neighborhood. Within one herd of taurine cattle, you will find several personality types. Some are gentle and like to be petted on the nose, while others shake their heads, snort, and run toward you to intimidate you.

I have walked through a cow pasture with my friend, and I felt very vulnerable at the time. She said that none of them would actually hurt me, but when they started to trot quickly in my direction, I felt a lot of fear. She was right, though. They were just curious.

By cloudel — On Sep 15, 2011

I rent a home, and it is surrounded on three sides by a pasture full of taurine cattle. I am unsure of the reason, but one died last winter, and the owner never came and buried it. By leaving it there, he exposed the other cows to whatever this one had.

He eventually moved the other cattle into a pasture further back, so my husband and I were able to walk out on this land. We found two more cow skeletons. I suspect that the dead ones had all caught the same disease. It sure would have helped if he had buried them.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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