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Welcome to the Republic of Cows

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We created cattle by manipulating their wild cousins, aurochs, in Europe, Asia, and the Sahara beginning over 10,000 years ago. Unlike Frankenstein’s monster, who could never find a place in human society, cattle trotted into societies around the world, making themselves at home on most ranges they encountered. Rosa Ficek, an anthropologist at the University of Puerto Rico who has studied feral cattle, says they generally find their niche. Christopher Columbus brought them on his second voyage to the Caribbean in 1493, and they proliferated, like the kudzu of the feral animal world. “[Cattle are] never fully under the control of human projects,” she says. They’re not “taking orders the way military guys are … They have their own cattle plans.”

The larger question is, Why are we so nervous about losing cattle? In terms of sheer numbers, they’re a successful species. There is just over one cow or bull for every eight people in the world. If numbers translate to likes, we like cows and bulls more than dogs. If estimates are right, the world has 1.5 billion cattle and…

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