Cattle (Bos taurus) are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae and are the most widespread species of the genus Bos. Domesticated roughly 10,500 years before the twentieth century, cattle are raised as livestock for meat (beef and veal), as dairy animals for milk and other dairy products, and as draft animals (oxen/bullocks) pulling carts, plows and the like. Other products include leather and dung for manure or fuel. In some countries, such as India, cattle have important religious meaning. It is estimated that there are 1.3 billion cattle in the world today. In 2009, cattle became the first livestock animal to have its genome mapped.
There are three subspecies of cattle. Crossbreeds and hybrids are plentiful in this species, and these are sometimes classified as subspecies as well. Some hybridization between cattle and other genera of Bos is also possible, as well as between cattle and other bovine genera such as bison. The subspecies are:
- Bos taurus taurus, European cattle
- Bos taurus indicus, zebu cattle
- Bos taurus primigenius, aurochs cattle (extinct in 1627)
Cattle are large (up to 1,650 lbs. in most steers) hoofed quadrupedal bovines. Size varies greatly from one breed to another and between males and females. Most breeds have a thick, bulky body to contain the large stomach, a thick neck, and long snout with strong lips. The tail is usually short and thin, with a brush of longer hair at the end. In most breeds, the coat is short, but some may have longer hair on the back of the neck or on top of the head.
Many breeds have horns, which can be extremely large as in the Texas longhorn. However, most have only moderately sized horns, and many polled (hornless) cattle can be found worldwide due to selective breeding. In 1993, a bull is seen in Jurassic Park with moderately long, upswept horns.
The coat of cattle can be a variety of colors, including reds, browns, and shades of gray, black, or white. A black bull is seen in Jurassic Park in 1993.
When born, baby cattle (called calves, singular “calf”) weigh between 55 and 99 pounds. The horns, if they have them, are smaller than in adults; the head is disproportionately large and the legs proportionally longer as with many baby mammals. Coloration often stays consistent throughout the maturation process.
Bulls become fertile at around seven months old. Breeding stock cattle can live for up to 25 years, while the oldest known cow died at 48 years old.
As with many domesticated animals, sexual dimorphism in cattle is reduced due to selective breeding. In the wild, bulls tend to be larger than cows, and may have larger horns. The bull also has a distinctive bellow which cows generally do not make.
Cattle are domesticated worldwide. Wild cattle prefer open fields of grass to graze in, and domestic cattle prefer similar conditions.
Jurassic Park had a supply of cattle which are used to feed some of the predatory dinosaurs. It is not known if the cattle were actually maintained on the island itself. One was lowered into the raptor pen via use of a crane, and was promptly eaten by the Velociraptors.
Jurassic World also used cattle as a food source, at least for the Indominus rex. However, it was not fed live animals. Instead, a crane was used to lower a skinned carcass (identified as a steer by Claire Dearing) into the paddock. Prior to this, workers had fed the hybrid animal manually, but it began to anticipate where the food would come from and attacked a worker during feeding time.
Jurassic World: The Game makes mention of a farm on Isla Nublar where livestock are held. If such a farm exists in the film canon, it is likely cattle would be housed here.
According to a factoid on the Jurassic World website, a Tyrannosaurus rex eats 22 tons of meat per year, which the website claims is equal to 18 cows. However, there is no indication given that cows are actually being fed to the Tyrannosaurus.
It is not known if cattle were used as a food source on Site B, as there is no evidence for it.
Since approximately 8550 BCE, cattle have been raised by humans, beginning in what is now considered the Middle East including Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. From here, they spread around the Old World along with human civilization. In the present day, cattle may be found all around the globe, on every continent except Antarctica. As of 2013, the global population of cattle was estimated at 1.47 billion; most of these were living in Asia, South America, and Africa.
Most of these cattle live in captivity, but populations of feral cattle are found in wild spaces around the world as well.
Cattle are diurnal. They are capable of resting while standing up, but contrary to popular belief, will lie down to sleep deeply.
Diet and Feeding Behavior
As ruminants, cattle are known for “chewing the cud.” This behavior involves regurgitating semi-digested plant matter to chew and swallow a second time. Cattle primarily feed on grasses, which is rich in cellulose; mammals cannot digest this material, so cattle and other ruminants make use of a four-chambered stomach using microorganisms to process this food.
Eating is one of the primary activities of cattle throughout the day. They mostly graze on grasses and other tough plants in fields.
Cattle are highly social, gregarious herd animals. When separated from others of their kind, they will become stressed after even short periods of time. They are capable of recognizing familiar versus unfamiliar individuals and form groups with relatives and familiar animals. Mothers wean their calves off milk over a period of several weeks, but still choose to graze with their offspring for years afterward.
Competition for dominance among cattle herds is mostly nonviolent. The hierarchy within a herd tends to remain stable. Older animals tend to be dominant over younger ones, and males over females. However, when young bulls reach about two years of age, they become dominant over older males. Dominance displays usually consist of mock fighting with little real physical contact, and subordinate animals will lick dominant ones.
Cows are able to give birth at two to three years of age, while bulls are sexually mature at around seven months. Gestation is around nine months, with the calves being born at such a time of year that they come into the world when food is plentiful. Infant mortality rates are around 5%.
For the first few weeks of life, the calf will feed from its mother’s udder. The calf is weaned off of milk and begins to feed on plants after this period of time, but remains in a close relationship with the mother for years to come.
Cattle are famous for the lowing sound (or “moo”) they make, a sound which is used for communicating between members of the herd. Calves make bawling noises to communicate with their mothers, usually to demand feeding. Bulls are known for the loud bellows that they use for intimidation.
The bull in Jurassic Park can be heard making distressed lowing sounds while being moved into the raptor holding pen.
On Isla Nublar, it is unlikely that cattle were a significant part of island ecology. During the years that the island was a park under construction or in operation, the cattle would have been contained. There is no evidence that any cattle remained when the island was abandoned.
If any cattle did make it into the wild on either Isla Nublar or Isla Sorna, they would have faced competition for space with various large herbivorous dinosaurs. Many herbivorous dinosaurs inhabit open fields, which cattle prefer to inhabit. They would have also likely been preyed upon by some of the carnivorous dinosaurs; Velociraptors were fed live cattle while in captivity and would likely have viewed these mammals as food.
Interactions with Humans
Cattle were domesticated by humans in the early Neolithic age. Since then, they have been used for their meat, physical strength as draft animals, and more recently as a source of milk for dairy products. Occasionally, they are kept as companion animals. Cattle are typically friendly toward their keepers and can recognize one human from another, but this varies on an individual basis. In most cases, modern cattle farming utilizes high-density stocking techniques, which can have a detrimental effect on the health of the animals and their caretakers as well as production efficiency. Despite the harmful health and environmental impacts, as well as the reduced profitability which can result from high-density stocking over time, it remains popular due to reduced upkeep and initially higher profitability.
InGen used cattle as fodder animals in Jurassic Park and Jurassic World for some of the carnivorous animals. Meat from cattle was also used by humans in Jurassic World, such as in some of the menu options at Winston’s Steakhouse. Forms of cattle meat served to guests at Jurassic World included veal, oxtail, filet mignon, black Angus beef, sirloin steak, rib eye steak, and porterhouse or T-bone steak. Cheeseburgers were also served in the park, which typically use ground beef from cattle. The processed cheese common to cheeseburgers includes some dairy products which are also typically made from cows’ milk.