Livestock (also cattle) refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term “livestock” as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning of “livestock” is common.
Livestock generally are raised for subsistence or for profit. Raising animals (animal husbandry) is an important component of modern agriculture. It has been practised in many cultures since the transition to farming from hunter-gather lifestyles.
Animal-rearing has its origins in the transition of cultures to settled farming communities rather than hunter-gatherer lifestyles. Animals are ‘domesticated’ when their breeding and living conditions are controlled by humans. Over time, the collective behaviour, life cycle, and physiology of livestock have changed radically. Many modern farm animals are unsuited to life in the wild. Dogs were domesticated in East Asia about 15,000 years ago, Goats and sheep were domesticated around 8000 BCE in Asia. Swine or pigs were domesticated by 7000 BCE in the Middle East and China. The earliest evidence of horse domestication dates to around 4000 BCE
Older English sources, such as the King James Version of the Bible, refer to livestock in general as “cattle”, as opposed to the word “deer”, which then was used for wild animals which were not owned. The word cattle is derived from Middle English chatel, which meant all kinds of movable personal property, including of course livestock, which was differentiated from non-movable real-estate (“real property”). In later English, sometimes smaller livestock was called “small cattle” in that sense of movable property on land, which was not automatically bought or sold with the land. Today, the modern meaning of “cattle”, without a qualifier, usually refers to domesticated bovines (see Cattle). Other species of the genus Bos sometimes are called wild cattle.