La Feria News

Animal Nomenclature

Grace Heritage Ranch

You may have noticed that apart from the general name of an animal, such as a “goat”, they may have many other names such as “buck”, “billy”, “doe”, etc. As it turns out, once you get involved with the breeding, selling, and purchasing of animals it is important that you understand the terms used to describe them. Say you wanted to start a herd of cattle. If you were to purchase a strong young steer to start your breeding herd – well, let’s just say that you wouldn’t be very successful in that endeavor. You may not be planning to get your own animals now or ever, but still it would “behoove” you to learn what the animals are called, even if only to impress your city-slicker friends with your jargon. For this article we shall start with probably the most nomenclaturally-abused animal: the cow.

“Cattle” is the correct general term for two or more animals. However, as there is no singular form for “cattle”, you may use the term “cow” when you cannot be more specific. The term “cow” is technically referring to a female bovine that has already had a baby, which is a “calf”. A “heifer” would be a young female that has never had a calf. A “bull” is an intact (uncastrated) male used for breeding, while a “steer” is a castrated male that will be used for beef. Occasionally a young bull or a young steer will be referred to as a bullock. An “ox” would generally be a steer (occasionally a heifer or cow) that has been trained to pull a plow or is used in some other kind of draft work.polledETfam

You will also see the term “polled cattle”, which simply means that they don’t have any horns. This can be because they are naturally hornless or because the horns were prevented from growing after birth in a process known as “disbudding” or “dehorning”. As a side fact, both male and female cattle can have horns.

To learn even more and get hands-on experience, join us at Grace Heritage Ranch for our Saturday morning tours. We are located just 30 minutes northeast of Harlingen, TX near Santa Monica. Please visit us at or . For a recorded message, please call 1-855-447-8687. We offer both public and private tours.

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