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 well over a 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)
There is some debate among taxonomists whether these bovids belong in the species Bos taurus at all, or whether they should be classified as Bos primigenius with the aurochs as type subspecies. Others believe that the domestic cattle (Bos taurus) and aurochs (Bos primigenius) should be recognized as different species, while others still suggest some combination of the above.
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.
The Jurassic World incident would have left any cattle on the island abandoned. They would have faced danger from the many large predators left on Isla Nublar with them, as well as stiff competition from the abundant herbivorous dinosaurs. Bones found on the island in early 2016 include some which appear to be cattle jawbones, indicating that any cattle left on the island may have already begun to die out.
If any cattle managed to avoid predation, it is most likely that they died following the June 23, 2018 eruption of Mount Sibo.
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.
They may also communicate using body language. For example, pawing at the ground is a sign of aggression in bulls, often a warning that it is going to charge.
Cattle are large herbivores and live on open grasslands and fields, forming herds of many animals. They can have a large impact on their environment, maintaining control over local plant life through eating it. Adults have fairly few predators, fending off most threats with their sheer size and strength. Calves are more vulnerable, and must be protected from danger by the adults. Since most cattle live in captivity, they are not often preyed upon by any animals except the humans that raise them, and their grazing impact is limited. However, cattle farming causes humans to massively change the local environment to accommodate new grazing grounds for the cattle, leading to wide tracts of forest and grassland being leveled. The huge population size of cattle on Earth in the present day is enough to make a noticeable contribution to the percentage of methane in the atmosphere via the animals’ digestive byproducts.
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.
As one of the oldest domesticated species, cattle are featured in artwork dating back to prehistoric times (with images of aurochs being found in 17,000-year-old cave wall paintings). Their role in the development of human civilization has led to their being revered in many cultures; cows are considered sacred in some countries even today, and historically the image of a cow or bull was used to represent numerous deities. Cattle are particularly important in Hinduism, and the killing of cattle is illegal in India. This country’s history featured cows as symbols of plenty.
In fact, cattle are often seen around the world as an inherent symbol of civilization, since they were among the first animals ever domesticated for food and labor. European-derived cultures will often depict idealized imagery of cattle farming; children in these cultures will easily recognize cattle as one of the most common farm animals. In cultures where cows are raised for milk, they have become symbols of nurturing and nutrition, while bulls are often revered the world over as symbols of power and strength. Bulls are also commonly linked to impulsivity and indelicacy, giving rise to descriptive terms such as “bullheaded” to mean stubborn.
Both European and zebu cattle exist in Africa, where they feature in local culture as well. The Fulani people of western Africa are the world’s largest culture of nomadic cattle-herders, and the Maasai people traditionally assume divine right ownership over all cattle in the world as decreed by the supreme deity Ngai.
Cattle are most easily kept in regions where wide-open spaces are available, making them common farm animals in countries such as Australia and the United States where they were introduced during the British colonial era. A formerly common practice was ranching, and in many cases the cattle would be herded across the landscape to natural grazing grounds; this has fallen out of favor since it impeded the development of infrastructure, but it also was detrimental to the local environment. Today, most cattle are farmed in fixed locations. Some ranches still exist, but they are smaller in scale than those once popularized in the American West and Australia.
Cattle can be trained, as they are decently intelligent mammals, and can become emotionally attached to their handlers; however, the friendliness of a specific animal varies from one to another. They are capable of recognizing individual human faces and can tell friends from strangers.
As herd animals, cattle must be kept in groups or else they may become distressed. They will spend the better part of their day grazing, and can be fed most commercially available plant foods; some farmers have even had success raising cattle on a diet of kelp and other marine algae species. The keeping of cattle is an expensive operation despite the relative ease in finding foods they will eat, since they must consume huge amounts in order to remain healthy. Expenses begin to add up when the herding nature of cattle is considered, meaning that raising these animals for a profit is very difficult. Small farms today have difficulty competing with the massive factory farms that produce the majority of cattle meat and milk, leaving only legacy family farms and well-supported community farms as alternatives.
Cattle were among the first animals to be domesticated and are thus well-studied by archaeologists, since they provide insight into periods of human history that were not well-documented. These animals have been kept by humans for over ten thousand years; the aurochs is believed to be the first subspecies to be domesticated and therefore the ancestor of modern-day cattle. Scientists as early as the eighteenth century recognized that the aurochs represented a variety of cattle that had become extinct, with the last recorded living aurochs dying in the late 1620s. The concept of extinction was still quite new at that point in time, and cattle guided scientists into an early understanding of it.
Attempts have been made to bring the aurochs back from extinction through breeding cattle with primitive traits, but none have quite succeeded. Nevertheless, cattle have been an invaluable component of evolutionary research as well as studies into the domestication process since there is such an abundance of data about their history, from wild animals progressing all the way to the domestic variety known today.
Along with the religious significance that cattle play in some cultures such as Hinduism, these bovines are at the forefront of the global economy as the primary source of beef and milk throughout the world and therefore are of major political significance on many fronts. Such an enormous number of cattle are bred for their meat and milk that it actually has a measurable impact on Earth’s biosphere, affecting all countries globally. Methane production from farmland is one of the highly publicized concerns, with various efforts to curb methane levels being implemented; the type of food given to cattle does have an impact, but farmers have found that raising cattle on pastures is even more effective at reducing their methane production since the ecosystem absorbs some of the gases. Allowing cattle to forage naturally in their environment does appear to be the healthiest option.
However, letting cattle roam and forage is not short-term profitable, and most countries that farm cattle permit the existence of high-density stocking on factory farms. This is a politically contentious issue, since it causes long-term expenses, zoonotic disease, and animal cruelty. Cattle are often the subject of animal rights debates, since they are among the most intensively farmed large animals. As mammals, humans are more likely to empathize with cattle than with animals such as fish or chickens, so they are a popular symbol in the animal rights movement. For similar reasons, cattle are often featured in vegetarian or vegan demonstrations as one of the most systematically exploited animals. The production of veal is especially controversial since it is made from immature calves.
The governments of some countries have stepped in to regulate cattle farming not only for environmental and animal welfare reasons, but for human health as well. Especially in countries where high-density stocking is permissible, diseases may run rampant throughout cattle populations and infect meat and milk being shipped out. Bacterial, viral, fungal, and prion diseases are all known to occur in farmed cattle; food safety regulations are often implemented to force production facilities to inspect their foodstuffs for disease. The study of cattle veterinary science is called buiatrics, and professionals in this field are pooled by the World Association for Buiatrics.
Cattle are also used in blood sports, such as bullfighting. This is widely considered a cruel practice as it results in injury and death to many of the animals involved (and is also hazardous to the human participants), but it has not been outlawed in the countries where it is common. It is best known from Spain’s running of the bulls, but other forms of cattle-based entertainment can be found in the form of rodeos held throughout the United States, Canada, and other developed countries. These are considered less violent, but still are highly controversial. They remain in practice largely because they have successfully integrated themselves into Western conservatism as a symbol of old-fashioned colonial agriculture and the mythic past of the American West.
Cattle were domesticated by humans in the early Neolithic age. Since then, they have been used for their meat, hides, physical strength as draft animals, manure, and more recently as a source of milk for dairy products. On occasion, they can be kept as companion animals due to their ability to recognize and remember specific human faces. 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. Other dairy products served in the park included ice cream and yogurt.
The massive size of these animals should not be understated, and their strength should never be underestimated. Cattle cause an average of twenty deaths per year, which is not a large number overall, but it still merits knowing how to be safe around these animals. Most cattle-caused deaths are a result of kicking and trampling, with more than half being allegedly deliberate. The easiest way to remain safe around cattle is to have a reliable escape route.
When herding cattle, alleyways and other passages should be wide enough for the animals to pass you but not so wide that they can turn around. Walking backward is not as easy as walking forward, so it is far safer to be behind one should it suddenly become agitated. Cattle have a wide, panoramic range of vision as befitting a prey animal, and have highly acute hearing; they may be startled by movements or sounds a human would not notice. It is best to be on your guard at all times while interacting with cattle. Like with all animals, they are especially dangerous when breeding, as a hormonal bull will be more aggressive than usual and cows with calves will be highly defensive. The University of Wisconsin at Madison recommends maintaining breeding bulls in specialized facilities and never assuming that any given bull is tame.
If interacting with cattle closely, remember that they are prey animals despite their size and can be startled into sudden action easily. Move slowly and deliberately around them, gently touching them but never prodding unless they have somewhere to go. Talking quietly and calmly to the animals can help reassure them. In every situation, defer to the advice and guidance of a trained farmhand; they likely know the personalities of their cattle well enough to keep you safe.