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cattle, sheep, goats, and relatives


The mammal family Bovidae includes a wide variety of hoofed mammals, including antelopes, cattle, sheep, goats, and others . This family is found throughout much of the world, except for Australia and many islands, but most species are found in Africa (antelope, gazelles, buffalo, wildebeest, etc.). There are about 137 species in the world. Some of the most important animals in human history and agriculture are members of this family, including cows, sheep, and goats. In North America there are a few native members of the family Bovidae, including American bison, mountain goats, muskoxen, bighorn sheep, and Dall’s sheep. Of these, only American bison were once found in Michigan. However, since humans have introduced cows, sheep, and goats to the Americas, these animals have profoundly influenced North American ecosystems and are found throughout the continent. Members of the family Bovidae eat grass and other vegetation and use bacteria in their guts to ferment the plant matter. Males of all species have horns and often females have horns as well. Horns are different from antlers, which are found in the deer family. Horns have a bony core covered in keratin (what your fingernails are made of) and they are never shed.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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. "Bovidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 23, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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