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Chapter 1 What is animal science?

Chapter Objectives

* Define animal science

* Identify primary areas of animal science and what they address

* Describe the role of animal science in daily life


Animals are a vital part of our culture and society, and have been for thousands of years. Animals are sources of food and fiber for homes and for the table, as well as integral parts of our households and recreational activities (see Table 1-1). In the United States, two out of three households have a pet in residence. Millions of people participate in exhibiting animals for pleasure and recreation (see Figures 1-1, 1-2, 1-3). A common misconception is that animal science is only for those interested in cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, and horses. However, the field of animal science developed into the study of the biology and management of all domestic animals. In the last decades, animal scientists have become more and more concerned with issues relevant to not only animals that provide food and fiber, but also those that provide pleasure and companionship in our lives, such as dogs, cats, and companion birds.

The production of animals for human use, whether as food or as companions, is a multibillion-dollar annual industry in the United States, and is a vital part of our national economy. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than $70 billion of meat animals were produced in the United States in 2005 (see Figure 1-4). The value of animals raised for meat has risen significantly over the last 40 years.

Animal science, and work conducted in animal science, affects everyone in the world. The care and production of animals became an important part of human societies worldwide when humans stopped the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and adopted a more agrarian (ah-grahr-e-ahn), or agriculture-based, village lifestyle. Subsequent to settling into villages, humans began the process of domesticating useful animals.



Domestic animals differ genetically from their wild ancestors, so the traits that are consistent with domestication are passed on to their offspring (see Table 1-2). These traits include changes in body size and shape, reduction of brain size, increased variety in color, increased deposit of fat and muscle, and retention of juvenile, or immature characteristics, which is known as neoteny (ne-oht-ah-ne). The process of domesticating animals is slow and occurs over many generations. The following are the stages of domestication:

1. Animals and humans began living in close proximity to one another in a symbiotic relationship. Animals and humans both benefited at this stage, but humans did not impose their will on the animals or deliberately provide food or shelter. The process of natural selection resulted in animals that were more comfortable in proximity to humans. These animals gained more benefit from the humans, and therefore, reproduced more successfully.

2. Humans began confining animals and providing food and shelter, but not controlling breeding.

3. Humans began addressing selective breeding to emphasize desirable behavioral and physiological traits.

4. Humans continued selection and development of specific animal breeds that were genetically isolated from other animals in the species.



Different cultures domesticated different animals, depending on what was available and what their needs were. Several characteristics are common among animals that were domesticated. They generally were animals that lived comfortably in groups, and had some type of dominance hierarchy in place within their species group. They also tolerated humans, adapted to a variety of environments, and reproduced well in captivity.

It is important to note that taming is different than domestication, and is a behavioral change only, without the concurrent genetic changes that are present in domesticated animals. Animals that are tamed may allow more human interaction than nontamed animals, but the next generation will have the wild behavioral characteristics. Tamed animals also still have the full range of behavioral possibilities of their wild counterparts. This is important to remember when handling tamed animals, because they still have wild instincts and are different than the domestic species we work with regularly. Even the tamest of wolves is not a domestic dog (see Figure 1-5). It is also important to remember that offspring of domestic animals crossed with wild animals, such as wolf-dog hybrids, will display behaviors of both the wild and the domestic parent.

Humans found the effort of domestication worthwhile for many reasons. The first, and most obvious, was to increase access to a high-quality source of protein. Protein from a meat-based source is the most complete and bioavailable source of protein for people. Having domestic animals made that source of protein much more readily available and much more reliable than hunting. In 2004, Americans ate more than 200 pounds of meat per capita (see Table 1-3). In addition, humans benefited from the milk and egg production of the animals. Most domestic livestock were originally multipurpose animals. In modern animal science, we have developed breeds of animals that specialize in production of certain products that we use. Details on these breed differences are discussed in later chapters.


Domestic animals also served as guardians and in rodent control. As people began to grow plants and store crops from season to season, mice, rats, and other rodents were attracted to the ready supply of grain. Cats and dogs were especially useful in reducing these pest populations. One widely held theory about the beginning of domestication is actually built around this premise. Quite possibly, domestication of animals originated as dogs and cats were attracted to the readily available food supplies around human settlements. These food supplies include rodents that were attracted to the stored foodstuffs and refuse that included animal-based material from successful hunts.

Animals have also played a long and important role in transportation and as a source of power. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, animals were the primary source of power available to human societies. Horses, cattle, and buffalo have all served important roles as draft animals. Even breeds of dogs were developed to work as draft or pulling animals. In many countries, animals still play this important role. This is especially true in some Asian and African countries. Even in the United States, animals, especially horses, are used as a mode of transportation to access areas that cannot be reached with trucks or other vehicles.

The role of animals in our society has changed over the thousands of years of human-animal interaction, and continues to do so. In addition to serving roles as food sources, power sources, and for companionship, animals are playing an ever-increasing role in the health of humans (see Figure 1-6). Animals are very important in biomedical research, where they often serve as models for research that can improve the lives of people, and treat some of our most dreadful illnesses. Animals also serve an important role as service animals for many people with disabilities. These specially trained animals, usually dogs, provide support to help people with disabilities complete day-to-day tasks that many of us take for granted. Not only do these animals help with physical tasks, but they also facilitate social interactions between people. A growing area of research into the human-animal interaction addresses the role that animals can play in the development of young people. Animal interactions are believed to increase empathy in young people, as well as teach responsibility and many other important life skills.

As the roles of animals in our society change and evolve, the field of animal science has evolved to serve those changing needs. Animal science includes many specific areas of study. Nutrition, physiology, animal health, reproduction, and management are common parts of most animal science programs and have been focus areas since the beginning of the study of animal science. Newer fields of study in animal science include ethology, biotechnology, and food safety.



Animal agriculture The segment of agriculture dealing directly with the production and use of animals. Animal agriculture generally refers to the production of those animals that are used for human consumption, whereas animal science refers to all domestic animals.

Animal health The study of the overall condition and function of an animal, especially as related to disease. Animal health also includes the study of diseases that may impact people, whether through the food supply or through direct transmission of diseases from animals to people.

Animal rights A philosophy that the rights of animals and humans are interchangeable. Supporters of animal rights do not believe animals should be used for research, animal agriculture, or as companions and for entertainment. (See animal welfare.)

Animal welfare The philosophy that animals should be treated and managed with consideration for the animals' physical and psychological needs. Proponents of animal welfare focus on the humane use of animals by people, but do believe that using animals for research, food, and companionship is acceptable, as long as the animals are treated in a humane way.

Animal Welfare Act (AWA) An act that regulates the care and treatment of animals. The AWA specifically addresses animal research facilities, animal dealers, animal exhibitors, and the transportation of animals. Components of the AWA also address animal fighting and pet theft.

Avian (a-ve-ahn) The species name for birds or birdlike animals.

Biotechnology (bi-o-tehck-nohl-o-je) Any technique that uses living organisms to make or modify products, to improve plants or animals, or to develop microorganisms for specific purposes. Biotechnology is a growing field in animal science and agriculture. Biotechnology is used to increase reproductive efficiency of animals through techniques such as cloning (the production of an animal genetically identical to its parent). In 1996, the first livestock animal, a sheep, was cloned. Biotechnology is also used to assist animals in maximizing production. Recombinant bovine somatotropin (so-mah-to-tro-pihn), also known as rBST, has been used to supplement the naturally occurring bovine somatotropin (BST) in cattle to increase milk production. Some people resist the use of biotechnology in animals due to concerns about long-term affects. At the current time, the use of biotechnology is growing more rapidly in the plant sciences than in animal science.

Bovine (bo-vi-n) The species name for cattle.

Breed A group of animals of the same species with a similar appearance and similar genetics that differentiate them from other animals of the same species.

Breed association An organization that oversees the recording of registrations for a breed of animals. The breed association may also be involved in promoting the breed and hosting events, such as shows and sales, for the breed.

Breed character Those physical characteristics (for example, size, color, coat pattern, coat type, etc.) that differentiate one breed from another.

Browse (browz) Leaves and small twigs that animals consume. Goats and sheep are animals that commonly consume browse.

Canine (ka-ni-n) The species name for dogs.

Caprine (kahp-ri-n) The species name for goats.

Compost (kohm-po-st) The material that results from decay of manure and other organic material. Compost can be used to fertilize fields and pastures, as well as gardens. Composted manure is available for residential use in many gardening stores.

Domestic animal (do-mes-tihk) An animal that has been bred over generations to benefit humans and to thrive in an environment of close human contact.

Draft animal An animal used or developed for pulling carts, wagons, plows, or other items. Many developing countries still depend on draft animals as primary sources of labor. In the United States, draft animals are used by some religious groups, but are not a primary source of agricultural power.

Equine (e-kwi-n) The species name for horses.

Ethology (e-thohl-o-je) The scientific study of the behavior of an animal, or group of animals, as related to the environment. In animal science, many ethology research programs focus on how the way we manage and care for our animals affects their behaviors and well-being. As people in animal production strive to meet consumers' demands to produce high-quality animal products, and to do so in a way that is not detrimental to the animal, the study of animal well-being is important.

Feline (fe-li-n) The species name for cats.

Feral (fehr-ehl) An animal that was once domesticated and has returned to the wild state. The term feral is most often used to refer to horses and cats, but can apply to any animal. Feral animals are still genetically the same as their domestic counterparts. Mustangs of the western United States are feral horses.

Flock (flohck) A group of birds or a group of sheep.

Flocking tendency A desire in a group of sheep to gather together.

Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) The FAO is a part of the United Nations that promotes agricultural development around the world. The FAO also maintains statistics on agricultural production around the world.

Food safety The study of conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food and minimize contamination and food-borne illness. The United States has the safest food supply in the world, and studies in food safety are designed to maintain and increase the level of safety. Food safety issues include bacterial contamination of food, especially during processing and handling, antibiotic residues in food products, and the role of genetic engineering in food products.

Generation (jehn-her-ra-shuhn) A group of animals born around the same time, and that are approximately the same age.

Generation interval The average time interval between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring.

Genetics (jehn-eh-tihcks) The science of how characteristics are passed on through generations.

Graze (graz) To eat plant material that grows on the ground.

Grazing capacity The number of animals a particular piece of land can nutritionally support for a given time without damaging the land. Grazing capacity is influenced by the type of plant material present, the type of animals that are feeding on that plant material, and the typical environment in an area. The grazing capacity for a semiarid region is lower than the grazing capacity for a temperate region.

Grazing land The land that is used for grazing animals on a regular basis.

Grazing unit (1) The amount of pasture used by a mature cow, or its equivalent in another species, in a year; (2) A division of grazing land that is determined to assist in management of the property and livestock. A grazing unit can be of any size.

Grazing value The monetary value of the plant material on a grazing unit. This value is based on the palatability, nutritional value, quantity of forage, longevity of the plant material, and the area of distribution.

Gregariousness (greh-gahr-e-ehs-nehs) The preference of some species of animals to remain in a group.

Heredity (heh-rehd-i-te) The transfer of characteristics from parents to offspring.

Herd (herhd) A group of animals.

Herd book A record kept of the ancestry of an animal. Breed associations usually keep the official herd book for a breed.

Herdbound A reluctance or refusal to leave the herd.

Herding instinct In dogs, herding instinct is an instinctive desire to keep animals in groups, and to move those groups of animals together.

Mammal(mahm-al) Any of a group of warm-blooded animals that have fur and produce milk to feed their young.

Mammalian (mah-ma-yl-yuhn) Referring to mammals.

Management The direction or supervision of an animal science entity. Management could refer to a business or the direction of the care of animals.

Manure (mahn-oo-er) The combination of fecal waste, urine, and bedding material produced by animals. Manure is commonly used as a fertilizer for fields and pastures. In some parts of the world, dried manure is burned as a source of fuel.

Neoteny (ne-oht-ah-ne-) The retention of juvenile characteristics through adulthood. When compared to wild animals, adult domestic animals typically look more like the young in face and body shape. Adult domestic animals also retain more juvenile behaviors than adult wild animals.

Nutrition (noo-trish-uhn) The science of how a body uses food. The nutrients that animal bodies demand are the same nutrients that human bodies demand. There are many correlations between human nutrition and animal nutrition; in fact, animals are often used as models for studying issues such as diabetes and obesity relative to human nutrition. Nutritionists also explore how to use available foodstuffs to increase efficiency and well-being of animals. The largest economic segment of the companion animal industry is the pet food segment. As in human health and nutrition, animal nutrition increasingly focuses on how feeding and nutrition can be used to prevent disease and improve quality of life.

Organic agriculture (or-gahn-ihck) The raising of plants or animals for food with the minimal use of most conventional chemicals. The precise standards for labeling animal products as organic are available on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Web site: Organic agriculture is one of the fastest-growing segments of animal agriculture, as producers strive to meet the increasing demand for organic products.

Overgrazing A problem that occurs when too many animals are housed on too little land. The animals eat all of the plant material, and damage the root systems, resulting in severe damage to the grazing land. Overgrazed land can be restored, but significant resources are required to replant and fertilize the land.

Ovine (o-vi-n) The species name for sheep.

Pasture (pahs-cher) Land that is used for grazing animals.

Pasture rotation The process of rotating animals from one pasture to another through the growing season. Rotating pastures increases the efficiency of pasture use and decreases parasitic contamination of the pasture.

Physiology (fihz-e-ohl-o-je) The science of the vital physical functions of living things. Physiologists study the whole animal, or study aspects of physiology at the cellular level. Physiology can be broken into several focused areas, including the following.

Exercise physiology A branch of physiology that primarily focuses on maximizing the athletic performance of dogs and horses. Physiologists also study the development of muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments of animals, and seek ways to improve the quality of food products.

Growth physiology A field of physiology focused on maximizing growth and production of animals.

Lactation physiology Research conducted on the field of lactation and the mammary gland.

Reproductive physiology Research conducted on the reproductive processes of different animals, and the search for ways to improve reproductive efficiency and treat reproductive problems in animals.

Porcine (por-sin) The species name for pigs or hogs.

Range (ranj) (1) A term for land populated with native plants and grasses that is used for feeding animals; (2) The normal territory that a wild animal may inhabit.

Reproduction (re-pro-duhck-shuhn) The science of how animals produce offspring. Research in reproduction has resulted in the use of the following technologies:

Artificial insemination The collection of semen from a male and the manual deposit of the semen in the reproductive tract of a female. The use of artificial insemination allows males to breed many more females than they could naturally. Artificial insemination also allows the shipment of semen, either cooled or frozen, to females around the world. Frozen semen keeps indefinitely, so semen can be preserved and used from males that have died. Artificial insemination also allows the breeding of males that may have an injury or other problem that makes it impossible for them to breed a female normally.

Embryo transfer A fertilized embryo taken from one female and implanted in another female to be carried through pregnancy. The use of embryo transfer technology allows genetically superior females to increase their contribution to the species. In some species, females can be superovulated. This can result in the release of numerous egg cells that can then be fertilized, with the embryos transferred to numerous other females.

Science The study of a subject in a planned and methodical way.

Species A group of living things with similar heritable characteristics.

Sustainable agriculture A practice of raising animals and crops that meets the current needs of society without reducing the potential for future production. Many of the concerns leading to the sustainable agriculture philosophy are based in concerns about the impact of high-intensity agriculture on the environment.

Trait A specific characteristic that can be passed through generations.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) The federal entity that regulates agriculture and the animal agriculture industry.

Xenotransplantation (ze-no-trahnz-plahn-ta-shuhn) The transplantation of animal organs into humans.


Animal science is a broad field that impacts the lives of people in a variety of ways. The production of food and fiber for our table and clothes, as well as a wide variety of other products (see Chapter 2) result from animal science. Although traditionally animal science has focused on production agriculture, in the last decade increasing interest and emphasis has been placed on the study of companion animals, such as dogs, cats, and birds. Animal science is also moving into fields such as ethology and biotechnology, and cooperative efforts between animal scientists and the medical profession are becoming more common as we seek ways to improve human and animal life.

1. Rank the species below in the order in which they were
domesticated (1 is longest ago).

--Ovine    --Caprine   --Canine    --Feline

--Bovine   --Equine    --Porcine

2. Give one example of how biotechnology is currently applied
that directly, or indirectly, affects animal agriculture.

3. List one aspect of animal science that has affected your life

4. Calculate the number of dogs and cats owned in your community.

a) Calculate the number of households in your community by dividing
the population of your community by the average number of people in
a household (2.67 according to the 2000 U.S. Census).

b) Multiply the estimation formula for the number of dogs (.58)
by the total number of households.

c) Multiply the estimation formula for the number of cats (.66)
by the total number of households.

Please note, these formulas are based on the national averages
regarding number of households with pets, and are not designed to
reflect the exact number of animals in your community. However, the
calculation will provide a reasonable estimate of the number of
dogs and cats in your community.

Below, match the animal science specialization with its description.

5. -- Physiology      a. The scientific study of animal behavior as it
                         relates to its environment.

6. -- Nutrition       b. Any technique that uses living organisms to
                         make or modify products, to improve plants or
                         animals, or to develop microorganisms for
                         specific purposes.

7. -- Ethology        c. The science of how food is used by the body.

8. -- Biotechnology   d. The direction or supervision of an animal
                         science entity, which could be a business or
                         the direction of the care of animals.

9. -- Reproduction    e. The science of the vital physical functions
                         of living things.

10. -- Management     f. The science of how animals produce offspring.

Match the species name with the common name of these animals.

11. -- Porcine         a. Goat

12. -- Canine          b. Horse

13. -- Feline          c. Pig

14. -- Bovine          d. Sheep

15. -- Equine          e. Bird

16. -- Ovine           f. Dog

17. -- Caprine         g. Cat

18. -- Avian           h. Cow

Census of domestic animals in the United States

Birds (pet-type) (4)          10,100,000

Cattle and calves (1)         95,497,994

Cats (2)                      77,600,000

Chickens (egg-laying) (1)    429,317,605

Chickens (meat-type) (1)   1,389,279,047

Dogs (2)                      65,000,000

Ducks, Geese, Other (1)    Not available

Emus (1)                          48,221

Horses (3)                     9,200,000

Ostriches (1)                     20,550

Pigs (1)                      62,485,647

Turkeys (1)                   93,028,191

(1.) 2002 National Agricultural Statistics Service survey.

(2.) American Pet Products Manufacturers Association 2003-2004 survey.

(3.) American Horse Council survey.

(4.) U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, 2001, American
Veterinary Medical Association.

The approximate years of domestication for common domestic animals in
the United States

Species             Approximate year

Dog                   14,000 B.C.

Sheep                  8,000 B.C.

Goats/Pigs/Cattle      6,500 B.C.

Cats                   6,000 B.C.

Llamas                 4,000 B.C.

Donkeys/Horses         3,500 B.C.

Chickens               3,200 B.C.

U.S. per capita food consumption
Total meat: Boneless, trimmed (edible) weight, pounds per
capita per year

       Red               Fish and    Total
Year   meat    Poultry   Shellfish   meat

2005   110      73.6       16.1      199.7

2004   112      72.7       16.5      201.2

2003   111.6    71.2       16.3      199.2

2002   114      70.7       15.6      200.4

2001   111.4    67.8       14.7      193.9

2000   113.7    67.9       15.2      196.8

Red meat commodities include, beef, veal, pork, lamb, and mutton.
Poultry commodities include turkey and chicken, as well as
the skin, neck, and giblets. Fish and shellfish include fresh and
frozen, canned, and cured products. Game consumption for red
meat, fishery products, and chicken for commercially prepared pet
food are excluded. Numbers calculated from unrounded data.

Source: USDA/Economic Research Service.
Data/FoodConsumption/FoodAvailQueriable.aspx#midForm (last
updated Dec.21,2005).U.S. Department of Commerce/National
Marine Fisheries Service for fishery products.
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Author:Brady, Colleen
Publication:An Illustrated Guide to Animal Science Terminology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Next Article:Chapter 2 The animal agriculture industry.

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