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From the milk we drink in the morning, to the leather shoes we slip on for the day, to the steak we savor at dinner, our daily lives are thoroughly bound up with cows. Yet there is a far more complex story behind this seemingly benign creature, which Hannah Velten explores here, plumbing the rich trove of myth, fact, and legend surrounding these familar animals.
From the plowing field to the rodeo to the temple, Velten tracks the constantly changing social relationship between man and cattle, beginning with the domestication of aurochs around 9000 BCE. From there, Cow launches into a fascinating story of religious fanaticism, scientific exploits, and the economic transformations engendered by the trade of the numerous products derived from the animal. She explores in engaging detail how despite cattle's prominence at two ends of a wide spectrum: Hinduism venerates the cow as one of the most sacred members of the animal kingdom, while beef is a prized staple of the American diet. Thought provoking and informative, Cow restores this oft-overlooked animal to the nobility it richly deserves.
throne. But Minos failed to sacrifice this bull to Poseidon, because it was so dazzlingly beautiful. As part of Minos’ punishment, the angry god sent the Cretan Bull mad. It turned into a savage, fire-breathing beast which devastated the whole of Crete, spoiling crops and knocking down orchard walls. Heracles managed to catch hold of the bull by its horns and vault on to its back, where, despite being bucked, he stayed on and rode it until it became broken like a horse. He then rode the bull
their daily drink and a cooling bath. There are several reasons behind the need to raid, counter-raid and engage in outright warfare over cattle. One traditional reason is that young men regard cattle raiding as a rite of passage and as a way to acquire bride-wealth. One of the main roles of the initiated Maasai man is to be a warrior and herdsman. This means that they will defend their grazing land and cattle from raiding neighbours, and also undertake raids to gain cattle and expand their
Francis Quartly and his family, who worked on the Devon draught and beef animals. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Devon was second only in number to the Shorthorn. The breed was further improved by Thomas Coke (1754–1842) at his estate at Holkham in Norfolk: his Devons were considered to have reached breed perfection. The improvers of each breed clubbed together to form breed societies. Their job was to promote the breed and to register the births and ancestry of all pedigree cattle to
a freezing works in 1882. But by 1901 technological advances allowed chilled rather than frozen beef to be shipped across to Britain within three weeks. The ranch owners, with no live export market, had the opportunity to supply their best quality beef to this chilled market, while lower grade meat was frozen. The South American cattle culture is no longer concentrated in Argentina, but in Brazil (see next chapter), where there are 36.5 million beef cattle, compared with 14.4 million of them in
and that witches were burnt or scared off by the heat of the fire. If plague did strike then prayers were said, begging the Lord to put an end to the ordeal; or cow-leeches were employed. These people were the earliest known cattle ‘veterinarians’ in England, before the rise of rational medicine. Their methods were somewhat suspect, and relied on blood-letting and a range of herbal remedies to treat illness. One method for treating plague, described in 1648, was to dissolve a handful of hen’s