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Cattle, sheep and goats

Musk oxenMusk oxenCattle, bison, buffalo, sheep and goats are all bovids, a family of hooved animals (ungulates) with bony horns encased in tough keratin and hooves that are split into two toes. Antelopes and gazelles are also bovids. Most live in herds for protection, although young and sick animals make easy targets for predators such as big cats or wild dogs. Bovids graze on grass or other plants. All bovids are ruminants: their stomachs are divided into compartments that break down grasses, a tough food to digest, in stages. In cattle, the food is sent back to the mouth to be chewed again after the first stage of digestion. This is known as chewing the cud (partially digested food).

Heck cattle, a breed similar to the wild aurochHeck cattle, a breed similar to the wild auroch


Cattle is the term generally given to bovids that are kept by humans for milk and meat: beef, or veal in young cows and calves. Some cattle are raised as working animals, to pull carts or ploughs. The skin of cattle is used for leather goods. 

Domestic cows are descended from the wild auroch, a species of bovid which once roamed across Europe, Asia and North Africa and finally went extinct in the 17th century.

The largest bovid, the gaur or Indian bison, stands 2.2 m (7.2 ft) high at the shoulder.

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