horse - pig - cow
The most important agricultural domesticated animals
They will be discussed on this page. Normally, the ungulates are
divided into even-toed and odd-toed ungulates. The
even-toed ungulates are subsequently divided into ruminants and the
swine family. So there are three groups. Most ungulates are quiet
large animals, that have specialized their digestive tract and limbs in
different ways. We will focus on this.
On this page we focus on three farm animals:
- The horse as representative of the odd-toed ungulates.
- The pig as representative of the swine family.
- The cow as representative of the ruminants.
cow has already been discussed
as a representative of all the ungulates on the page mouse - lion - cow.
will be repeated to be able to compare the three animals.
The wild horse
exists is the Mongolian Przewalski horse, which was discovered in
1879. For a long time it survived in zoos only. For some years now
animals from zoos have been brought back to Mongolia and reintroduced
into nature reserves. The Prezwalski horse is light brown, with
whitish underparts and a grey area around the mouth. They weigh about
300 kg and are 2 meters long and 130 cm heigh.
European relative was
the mouse-grey tarpanhorse. Its
weight was about 300
kg and with a shoulderheight between 110 and 130 cm
it looked like a pony.
Its legs were dark (like the legs of the Przewalski horse), mane and
black and the narrow eelstripe was black, too. The last tarpan
1887 in Poland. A number of related so called konik-horses remained.
resemble the tarpan horse. Later on they were used to breed. These
animals can survive outdoors the year around and live in several
nature reserves in Europe.
from the wild boar. These animals still live in nature. They
are stocky built animals with short legs. The fur is dark
brown and hairy. Compared to the domesticated pig the snout and head
are longer. Wild boar have a ridge of hair on their back. In Holland
they are approx. 100 cm long, 50 cm high and they weigh 75 - 150 kg.
The canines protrude considerably. Both lower and upper canines are
The original wild cow,
the aurochs, was a big animal. The bulls had a shoulder height
of 1,75 – 2 meters and a weight of 700 – 1000
kg, the cows were about 25% smaller. The bulls were mostly
black and the cows brown. They had a whitish eelstripe and snout and
big horns. The bulls' horns were wide and
thick-set, those of the cows were longer and bent sidewards. Aurochs
areas with an alternation of forest and open areas.
1627 the last aurochs died. Around 1920 the Heck brothers
started to re-create the aurochs in their zoos in Berlin and
From cave-drawings and paintings it was known what aurochs
This exterior was aimed for. Different primitive
breeds were crossed, until the exterior of the aurochs was reached.
Some of the used breeds
were: Spanish fighting cattle, Camarque cattle, Corsican
cattle, Hungarian savannah cattle and English park cattle. Some
more inbred breeds were also used, like the Frisian-Hollands cattle and
some Alpine breeds. The re-created cattle is called Heck cattle. Its
exterior resembles the aurochs. Yet there is doubt as to whether
this animal really resembles the aurochs. Heck cattle graze in a
number of nature reserves in Western Europe.
If we see horses, they look at us, react and
usually walk towards us. Sometimes we can stroke
hem. If they keep their distance, they still keep watching us. Horses
are animals of
plains, they walk and trot much and they are good jumpers. When they
take a bend, we see that their body is rigid and not very nimble.
When fighting each other, they bite and hit with their legs.
normal conditions they forage approx. 60% of the day (14 hours), under
bad conditions this can be as much as 80%. Horses learn well (think of
dressage) and teach their foal. Horses have relatively much facial
expression. They are vulnerable to electricity (40 volts can be too
much). They are seen as a symbol of power, elegance and freedom.
Man uses horses to ride, to draw carts and wagons, and to transport
freight. They are also used as draught horses for agricultural
activities, such as ploughing and harvesting. In Asia and sometimes in
horses are kept for their milk. And they are kept for training, for
jumping and racing and to ride them and do tricks in the
are able to learn much, they can even 'dance' on music.
Przewalski horses - overview
Konik - or tarpan horses
Pigs are curious, lively animals that live in groups. On a
farm, in a meadow,
they come up to us when we approach them. This behaviour in
many resembles the behaviour of their ancestors, the wild boar, that
lives in forests.
The day of a pig is an alternation of being awake and resting (dozing
and sleeping). Both are done for approx. 12 hours divided into two
periods: they are active twice a day and sleep twice a day, too.
When sleeping, they lie against and partially over each
other. When they are outside, they spend about 8
hours looking for food, 2 hours of which they spend rooting about, i.e.
they go through the soil with
their disc-shaped noses looking for seeds, roots and small animals.
Pigs like to investigate their surroundings. When in a modern stable,
where nothing is to be found (walls and floor are made of concrete),
scratched or hunted, they will use each other: bite each
other's tails and hunt each other. They try to get as much
food as possible and chase each other away. Tail-biting is thus a
substitute for their natural behaviour of investigation and
like to take mudbaths (see: happy pigs) and to rub their sides against
trees. Wild boar always have a few wallows and
rubbing-trees in their biotope. Wallowing (taking a mudbath) is
for skin care, as pigs cannot lick themselves everywhere.
Being omnivores, pigs are used to change unusable organic
substances into meat. In earlier times pigs were used
organic domestic rubbish and they were herded in forests, where they
dug up roots etc. Later on they
were kept on farms to process farm rubbish and nowadays they are fed
with relatively good food. There is some interest in pigs as pets.
Pigs are clever, clean and friendly. A pig that is kept as a housepet
gets attached to its owners.
Pigs in the meadow
When, on a winter morning, we enter the stable, we see all
the cows eating or chewing calmly and peacefully. From their
steam rises up and only the tranquil, peaceful sounds of chewing
are heard. Some animals
look at us calmly and lift their heads a little, the herd
responds. The eyes do not seem to look clearly, they seem rather dull,
introverted. They continue with what they were doing. The outward calm
is accompanied by a large digestive activity.
In summer we can see the herd in the meadow, even there they barely
react to our approach, they keep grazing or are
lying ruminating. You will seldom find the animals sleeping.
Each day they graze
for 8 to 10 hours and they use as much time to ruminate.
Compared with the other two animals, there is not much activity in this
herd animal. There is not much interaction, except for the constant
skirmishes and threats to determine and confirm the hierarchy
in the herd. Cows spend about one hour a day on social behaviour. They
lick each other's skin for example. To confirm the
hierarchy the animals threaten each other; low-ranking
animals give way to animals that are higher in rank. People make use of
the ability of cows to transform grass, that usually
grows in places where
arable crops cannot grow, into milk and meat. Until 50 years ago ox
were used as draught animals, (e.g. ox carts).
Cows in the meadow
Heck cattle 2
Horses are attentive, sensitive animals. Pigs are also
curious, cows are not. Horses like to run and trot,
pigs like to root, cows like to graze
and ruminate. Cows cannot trot. Pigs lie against each other while
resting, horses and cows do not do that. Furthermore, pigs
have alternating periods of peace and aggression. We see
little social interaction amongst cows.
In their behaviour horses resemble rodents
(sensitive), pigs resemble carnivores (a lot of mutual social
interaction; alternation of peace and aggression), cows represent the
inverted metabolism animals.
is a big,
relatively slender, lightly built animal. Because of the
long legs the body is relatively far from the ground. A long
neck, standing out from the body, connects the head to the
body. The head is elongated, especially
the lower jaw is long and strong. The shoulder is of normal height, on
the neck is a mane. The torso is well-balanced, higher posterior. The
tail is long and has long, flowing hair. The long legs are stretched
and the joints are hardly bent. Every leg rests on only one toe and
hoof (the outgrown nail).
is not very big, rather plump and roundish. The weight is
kg. Pigs are pink to brown coloured. The legs are rather short and
have two hooves with two narrow dew claws. The head turns into the
body almost without a neck (seen from the outside), because an
mass of muscles hides the neck. The head is on a level with the
backline. The nose is widened into a mobile, disc-shaped nose. The
tail is short, and ends in a curl. The body is relatively nimble. Pigs
corners very easily, however; they seem to do it at sharp angles, a bit
built animals, their legs are not shorter than horses' legs. The
joints are slightly bent. They walk on two hooves per leg. The head is
connected to the body with a short neck and is held on a
level with the backline. The skull is shorter than that of the horse.
The bull in particular is heavily built on the anterior side due
to the high shoulders. The cow is more evenly built. The horns on the
forehead are conspicuous.
We see that horses have long limbs and that the skull is long,
too, and the head is higher than the backline. The body of the pig is
and the head is on a level with the backline. The cow is heavily built,
its head has horns and is lower than that of a horse.
To compare fur colour we need to look at the wild species.
The Przewalski horse
is light brown with somewhat lighter underparts. The mane and under
parts of the legs are darker.
Around the mouth is a lighter area.
The wild boar
has uniformly dark brown, stiff hair. The piglets are lighter and
horizontally yellow-brown striped.
is uniformly brown (cows) or black (bulls) coloured with a light
eelstripe on the
The horse, like the mouse, has lighter underparts. The
piglets of the
wild boar are striped, a common feature of carnivores. The cow is dark
with a light eelstripe on the back.
a preference for short, succulent, relatively good quality, nutrient
rich, young grass, which is
bitten off with the incisors. They also eat leaves, buds, fruit, etc.
It is all food that contains little cellulose. Old grass they do not
touch, if they have the choice.
In a horse meadow we see an alternation of areas with young,
short grass, which the horses keep short, and areas with old, long
grass, which the horses do not eat. If necessary, horses can survive on
low quality grass.
intake speed is accelerated and the grass passes quickly (twice as
quickly as in cows) through the
digestive tract. In this way the horse does not get
much nutrition out of its food, but because of the high intake it
an omnivore. Pigs eat roots, leaves, fruit, seeds and mushrooms. They
tend to eat
meat when given a chance: carrion, earth-worms, larvae and small
off the grass with their tongues; the grass that cows eat is long,
rich in cellulose and poor in energy and therefore lower in quality
than the grass horses eat. First the grass comes in the rumen, after a
while it is burped up to be ruminated. The broken-up plant material
with micro-organisms form the real food that goes to
the abomasum (the real stomach).
Horses eat relatively high quality food compared to cows, pigs are
omnivorous: they eat meat and plants. Their food is easiest
The digestive tract of the horse
about 30 m long (15 x body length). The most important digestion- and
is the blind gut with a volume of 30
litres, which is found behind the stomach.
The total volume of the digestive tract is 210 litres, of which the
stomach is 9%, the small intestine 30% and the large intestine and
blind gut together 61%. Because the digestion largely takes place in
the blind gut, horses convert their food less well than
the warm, rather dry excrements is still much partly digested
food. In the wild, the leading stallions drop their
excrements on piles that can grow as high as 1 metre.
Piles of other stallions are kicked to be damaged.
a simple digestive tract of 25 m (approx. 20 x body length) with a
stomach of one room with an enlargement on the anterior side.
The volume of the digestive tract is 27 litres, of which the
stomach takes 29%, the small intestine 33% and the large
intestine and blind gut 38%. The length is relatively short. The
digestion is mostly done in the stomach. If pigs are
fed well, they have the same droppings as young cattle.
have a long digestive tract of 50 –
60 meters (approx. 30 x body length). They have four stomachs, of which
the fourth, called the abomasum, corresponds with our stomach. The
three stomachs that come before the abomasum have grown as
enlargements of the oesophagus: the rumen of 200 liters,
the reticulum, and the omasum. Reticulum, omasum and abomasum together
have a volume of 50 liters. The total volume of the digestive tract
is 360 liters, of which the stomachs take 71%, the small
intestine 18% and the large intestine and the blind gut 11%.
For a large part digestion has taken place before the food comes into
With cows, digestion is a matter of large quantities. Over 100 litres
of saliva are produced daily (human 1 – 2 l, horse 40 l). On
diet of mainly roughage, as much as 400 litres a day has been found.
Cows forage approx. 8
– 10 hours a day and ruminate as long as that. Compared with
horses (14 hours), cows graze less, but use more time fermenting
and digesting the grass. The manure is
somewhat in between that of the of pig
and the horse if we look at the structure of the digested
material as well as the degree of moisture. It is very fertile.
||50 – 60
Some data of the digestive tract
of horse, pig and cow (length = length digestive tract, volume = volume
Cattle has the longest digestive tract, with the greatest volume.
have the shortest. The volume of pigs is smallest, which has to do with
the good digestibility of their food. Cows digest the food to a large
extent before it reaches the stomach, pigs digest their food in the
stomach and horses after it has left the
stomach, in the blind gut.
The teeth of horses
exist of big incisors in the upper and lower jaw, perpendicular to each
other, with which they cut or bite grass. The
canines are lacking (stallions have small canines), then there
are big molars with lengthwise ridges. Horses chew sidewise. The
lower jaw, which forms the mobile limb part of the skull,
is long and massive.
have all teeth: incisors, canines and (pre-)molars. The
incisors are pointed forward. The canines
(called tusks) are long (up to 20 cm), bent upwards and stick
out of the mouth of the male. The molars
are not very specialized. The pre-molars are - as with carnivores
- flattened sidewards, the molars are blunt pointed. The
difference with the canines of carnivores is that in pigs they are
rootless, keep growing and are regularly ground against each other for
In the teeth of the cow
dominate. The ridges are lengthwise. Only the lower
jaw has incisors, they are lacking in the upper jaw. There are no
the empty space is called a diastema. The direction of chewing is
Horses have big incisors and molars, pigs big canines and cows only big
large eyes, that stand rather far back on the head. The range of vision
is wide. They see well, also at night. The ears are big, too, and they
hear well. By aiming their ears, horses can detect from which
direction sounds come. When a horse has noticed where it came
can find its own way back, i.e. without directions of the horseman.
were used as draught animals to pull milkcars, they knew exactly where
The eyes of pigs
are rather small, their ears are quite expressive and long. Hearing and
smell are extremely well developed. They can hear fruit falling and
find it without error, they can hear twigs breaking from a
With their smell they find food, like acorns, and man uses pigs to
find truffles. They are able to find them as deep as one meter. In the
sensitive disc-shaped nose there are many touch organs.
hear well, although they see mainly moving objects; immobile ones only
if they are nearby. Actually it is not clear if cattle see
anything because of the dull look in their eyes. Smell and
taste are better developed.
Some data of
horse, pig en cow (in % of ‰ of body mass)
– 5 ‰
The horse has a lean build, holds the head high, has a long neck and
has long, straight
is a good runner and jumper. The underparts of a brown wild Przewalski
horse is of lighter
colour. It has large senses and is watchful. The most important
digestion organ is the blind gut, where the relatively high quality
grass, that was cut off with the large incisors, is digested.
The horse has a
number of characteristics we saw in the mouse (large senses, light
underparts, large incisors, blind gut digestion).
The pig has a plump build, its colour is uniform. It has long canines,
and eats an animal when it gets in the way. The most important
digestion organ is the stomach. Piglets are striped and like to
lie against each other. The pig has a number of characteristics
we saw in the lion (social behaviour, alternation of rest and
aggression, long canines, stomach digestion, meat eater).
The cow has a massive, rigid body, and a light eelstripe. We
notice the big molars, digestion in the rumen, low quality food.
On the page mouse - lion - cow
the ungulates were characterized as the
metabolic-limbs animals in terms of threefoldness. Here the three
of the ungulates were compared. Within the metabolic-limbs animals:
- The horse is the nerve-sense animal. We see the same
features as in the mouse. The mouse does not have a long neck, the
horse does. The long neck separates the nerve-sense pole in the head
from the metabolic-limbs pole in the body. That is how the horse can be
a sense active animal.
- The pig is the heart-lung
animal. Here characteristics are comparable to the lion.
- The cow is the metabolic-limbs animal.
- The horse specialized the
limbs (runs much, has only one hoof, has long legs)
- The cow specialized the metabolism (eats low quality
food, has a long digestive tract, ruminates)
- The pig did not specialize in these fields,
but in its reproduction, with its many piglets.
metabolism is specialized, the more it is anterior. The horse has as
most important digestive organ the blind gut, the pig the stomach and
the cow the rumen.
Some features of
horses, pigs and cows
peace and aggression
|retired into itself
||waste processor, pet
Horse with a foal, higher posterior
A tarpan horse
Horses in front of a plow
Pig with a piglet
Wild boar in a mud wallow
Striped piglets of the wild boar
Some people keep pigs as pets
A black-white cow and a calf
Heck bull: massive anterior
A grazing cow
Cows in a milking stall
The skeleton of a horse: long legs, neck and jaw
The skeleton of a pig: a thick-set body
The skeleton of a cow: a massive body
The skull of a horse
The skull of a pig
The tusks of a male wild boar
Skull of a cow
The hoove of a horse