“Their strength and speed are extraordinary ; they spare neither man nor wild beast which they have espied… not even when they are very young can they be rendered familiar to men and tamed”. This quote may seem out of place when talking of cows. What’s perhaps even more surprising is that the person who said this was once the world’s most feared man: Julius Caesar. What Julius Caesar didn’t get right was that cows, by their very nature, are tamed. In fact, they have been ‘tame’ for over 6,000 years after descending from wild Aurochs. In fact, ‘cows’ isn’t even the correct ‘lay-name’ for the animal. Cows are actually cattle and their Latin name is Bos primigenius. ‘Cattle’ was the old English world for wealth. Cows were used as a sign as a person’s riches and therefore, having many cattle meant you were wealthy.
They are used by man for a whole host of reasons. Their meat is highly prized; their skin used as leather, their milk as a dairy source and their manure is used in fertilisers and fuel. However, their first use by man may have been as ‘draft animals’. The cows big frame and strength meant that they were ideal to be used to pull ploughs and transport goods. With their whole host of uses, it is of no surprise that cows are seen as ‘sacred’ in certain areas of the world. In India, for example, cows are seen with the same as respect as a person’s mother because of the milk they provide. This is why Hindu’s do not eat the meat of cows because of the high regard they have for them. One of the weirdest uses of cow can also be found in India. Indians often drink cow’s urine as a medicine to alleviate a whole range of illnesses. Despite this, there have been no conclusive evidence to suggest a cow’s urine may have healing properties (thank goodness!).
The cow was the first domesticated animal to have its genome mapped in 2009. What was found was that the global population of approximately 1.3 billion cows was propagated by as little as 80 individuals. Cows are often thought to have 4 stomachs. This is not actually true; they instead have 4 compartments in one stomach. Each section of the stomach has its own individual job to do. Because of their high cellulose diet, cows are ruminants. This means they produce a ‘cud’ which as to be re-swallowed to allow bacteria to break down the cellulose and use it as an energy source. Despite seeming sedentary, cows are very active; only sleeping 4 hours a day!