Animal husbandry, the practice of raising animals for agricultural purposes, dates back an incredibly long time. In fact, there's evidence of humans raising livestock as far back as 13,000 BC. That's literally older than farming itself, which makes sense when you think about it. The art of simply keeping an animal and raising it would have been much easier to wrap your head around than how to grow and cultivate crops at first.
So for 15,000 years, humans and animals have been together in an agricultural setting. Cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were the earliest animals that were raised by humans in a domesticated setting and around the world today they're still some of the most commonly raised animals. But they're not the only ones!
As we've refined our ability to raise livestock we've also grown more diverse in our interests and tastes. The desire for more exotic products including textiles as well as dairy products, eggs and meats means there's a vast number of livestock animals out there for people to raise and market. Some of them are probably easily recognizable, but others may be a little more difficult to pick out of a crowd.
If you think you know the livestock being raised around the world today, why not take our quiz and see how many you can identify?
Muscovy Ducks are native to Mexico and South America and are most easily identified by the red spots around their eyes. The name Muscovy doesn't relate to their origin and is thought to perhaps come from the name of a company that was well-known for trading the ducks in Europe.
Hereford cattle originated in the UK and today are one of the most widespread breeds in the world. There are currently well over 5 million purebred Hereford cows around the world in over 50 countries, representing the largest part of the beef industry.
Alpaca farming has proved to be quite lucrative in recent years thanks to a number of factors. In some locations, farmers can enjoy some good tax incentives for raising them but the animals also produce valuable fleece and simply trading in breeding stock can earn quite a bit of money as well.
Merino sheep are extremely popular for their wool, which is thinner and softer than most wool, making it a much more coveted fiber. Thanks to the softness of the yarn, it makes for much more pleasant products overall and is extremely popular for the manufacture of clothing and fabrics.
Chukar and Hungarian partridges are two of the most common breeds raised in America today. They're very small birds and tend to be used either for game hunting or for specialty foods like at your fancier restaurants or individual buyers, rather than in supermarkets.
The Duroc breed of pig is one of the most commonly raised throughout North America. They originate in Africa and are generally an orange or reddish-brown color. They're fairly muscular pigs and at maturity can weigh over 800lbs.
Alpine goats hail from the French Alps, and they are one of the most popular if not the most popular breed of dairy goat in the world. Though they can also be farmed for meat, the Alpine dairy industry is large. Alpines are also the only goat breed with upright ears.
The Bronze turkey is the most popular variety of turkey in the United States, though there are a handful of others that are farmed fairly prominently as well. Though they tend to look rather squat, these are large birds and a full grown turkey can have a 6-foot wingspan.
Ostriches have yet to take off as a large industry in America, but they're much more environmentally friendly to raise than cattle. While you need almost 2 acres of land to raise a cow, some ostrich farmers claim they can raise up to 10,000 ostriches on 120 acres of land if their feed is grown hydroponically.
The famous Japanese Kobe beef comes from Wagyu cattle, and the cows themselves have to be bred and raised to exacting standards to qualify as Kobe beef. Kobe only comes from Japan, and even beef from the same breed of cow in another country is not technically Kobe and can only be called Kobe style or simply Wagyu beef.
The Polled Dorset sheep is a popular breed in the industry that is all white and can be raised for wool, milk or meat. The "polled" part of the name refers to their lack of horns, which is a mutation of the breed that has been encouraged. Without horns, the rams are less dangerous both to each other and to human farmers raising them.
The Kiko goat is easily recognizable thanks to its very noticeable horns. The breed itself is prized for its meat, and in fact, its name literally means meat, which is kind of sad for the goat when you think about it. The breed is not particularly old and was first recognized in the 1980s.
Naked Neck chickens may look like they've fallen ill, but the lack of feathers is part of the breed. This actually makes them more desirable overall for meat birds since they will require less effort to pluck. The breed is originally from Transylvania, so make your own vampire jokes.
Guernsey cows are popular dairy cows in the U.S. and throughout the world. This is partially due to the fact they produce a high volume of milk and also because the milk produced by a Guernsey is actually higher in nutrients such as protein, Vitamin A and Vitamin D than other milk even though they require 20% to 30% less feed to produce the same amount as other breeds.
The Yorkshire pig, better known stateside as the American Yorkshire, is a bit smaller than its British cousin. The breed dates back to the 1700s in England so they have quite a history and while it took them a while to get established in the U.S., these days they can be found in pretty much every state.
Yak farming is still fairly young in America, but it is growing in popularity thanks to how adaptable yaks can be and the fact their meat is lean like bison and quite tasty. There's also a market for yak milk and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Since yaks can handle nearly any climate in the U.S., they make for an attractive option for would-be farmers.
Rabbits have never fully caught on as livestock in America owing to the fact so many people keep them as pets and they're generally regarded as cute and cuddly. Still, there is a meat and fur industry based around rabbit which is known by the name cuniculture. It's estimated over 2 million tons of rabbit meat is produced worldwide every year.
Holstein cattle are genetically superior milk producers compared to pretty much every other breed used for the task. They have been bred for 2,000 years, making them one of the oldest breeds. A top producing cow could make upwards of 67,000 pounds of milk in a year.
Originally from Switzerland, the Saanen goat grows to a size of about 130lbs. They're one of the most popular breeds in the world for milk production thanks to both the high volume and high quality of the milk they produce. One goat can produce over 2,500 lbs of milk per year.
The Plymouth Rock Chicken is one of the oldest breeds in America and is widespread across the entire country. During World War II, the government encouraged citizens to raise Plymouth Rock chickens for their own food so that food stores could be used for the troops.
Bison and buffalo are often considered the same animal but they are two distinct species. Bison are the animals with the large hump and shaggy appearance while an actual buffalo bears a much stronger resemblance to a bull with a wide face and large horns.
Emu farming is slowly becoming more popular in America. These birds are raised for several different reasons including meat, leather and also their oil, which is used for a surprisingly diverse range of things including medicinal purposes.
Jersey cows are noted for having highly nutritional milk, which also has a rich, off-white color due to higher levels of beta carotene. Farmers also favor jersey cows because their black feet tend to be stronger than the feet of many other cattle breeds.
Hampshire sheep hail from Hampshire County in England. They're a popular breed thanks to their excellent quality wool and the fact they're good meat producers as well. Doesn't hurt that they're clearly the cutest of the sheep breeds, too.
Verata goats hail from Spain and are raised both for meat and for milk. They're also extremely easy to pick out of a crowd thanks to their dramatic and somewhat intimidating horns. Males can also grow some pretty cool looking beards, which is fun.
Quails are tiny birds weighing only around 200 grams. Their eggs are popular in fancier cooking, and a quail will actually mature to egg-laying age in only eight weeks, at which time they will lay an egg per day from then on.
Most people consider horses as either work animals or pets, but they are actually raised for meat in many parts of the world. Canada has a horse meat industry and there are horses raised in the U.S. that are shipped to Canada specifically to be slaughtered for meat.
Pekin ducks may not look all that remarkable, but they're one of the most popular breeds in America and the world. They're raised primarily for meat and more than half of all the ducks in America that are raised for meat are Pekins.
Frog legs may not be the most popular meat in the world, but there is a market for them. Despite several attempts, there has been no real success in constructing a commercial frog industry in the United States, however. In Asia, there are commercial frog farms, but the conditions have been outed for being particularly inhumane.
Angus, also called Aberdeen Angus, is a breed of cattle from Scotland. The Black Angus is the most popular beef breed in America. By 2005 there were over 300,000 registered animals in the U.S.
The Barbados Black Belly sheep are a very goat-like breed, but they are, in fact, sheep. Unlike most breeds, the Barbados Black Belly cannot be raised for wool because they don't actually produce wool. Instead, they grow hair that's not really suitable for anything.
Hampshire pigs are the fourth most common breed in America and are easily recognizable thanks to their unique color patterning. They're exceptional meat pigs owing to their very large size.
The Araucana chicken is an especially popular breed for backyard chickens breeders thanks to their bright, blue eggs which make them appealing. The mustache look is not actually a mustache but large ear tufts that don't particularly serve any purpose whatsoever.
The Texas Longhorn is one of the most recognizable breeds in the world thanks to those eponymous horns. A mature steer of about 15 years old can have horns that are 9 feet across from tip to tip.
Spanish goats are raised for meat like many goats, but they also have a fun secondary benefit - they're really good at eating scrub. In fact, people actually use them to clear brush in an environmentally friendly way.
Jersey Giant chickens certainly earn their name with males growing to 15lbs. They're the largest breed of chicken and can be quite intimidating when you see an angry one running towards you.
Toulouse geese come from the area called Toulouse in France. They're raised for meat production and because they gain weight so quickly, they're also prized in the production of foie gras, which is goose liver pate.
Water buffalo are usually associated with Asia and Africa but they are making inroads in America as well. They're good producers of milk and the milk has also been used to produce some fairly popular cheeses as well.
Leghorn chickens originated in Italy and have become one of the most common breeds in America. The most well known Leghorn is, of course, Foghorn Leghorn of Looney Tunes cartoon fame.
La Mancha goats are known for their distinctive and tiny ears. They're a fairly hearty goat that can handle a wide array of climates and are noted for their exceptional milk production.