The average consumer may not be aware of the suffering of billions of birds raised for meat and egg production in the United States each year. Billions of "broiler" chickens and "egg" chickens, and millions turkeys, are killed for food each year. In addition, millions of birds die as a result of disease, injury and during transportation.
Egg-laying hens in the United States number more than 459 million. Of these millions of birds, 97% are confined to "battery" cages, tiny cages roughly 16 by 18 inches wide. Five or 6 birds are crammed into each cage, and the cages are stacked in tall tiers. As many as 50,000 to 125,000 battery hens, in sheds with minimal light, strain to produce 250 eggs per year, ten times the number of eggs they would produce in the wild.
Battery cage confinement does not allow birds to turn around or take part in any other natural behavior, such as preening, dust bathing, and foraging for food. Prolonged forced confinement causes unnatural behaviors such as cannibalism and increases the incidence of disease and injury. Laying hens are also forced to live in a polluted environment due to toxic feed ingredients, accumulated feces, and excretory ammonia fumes. A successful battery system relies heavily on antibiotics that are routinely administered to laying hens to decrease the incidence of disease among these immune-repressed birds.
Battery hens often die in their cages as the result of disease or injury. Those who survive but stop producing adequately are considered "spent" hens and are sent to slaughter to be used for human and animal food. Male chicks are of no value to egg producers. Each year more than 200 million male chicks are killed or left to die after hatching.
Egg-producing birds that are not confined to battery cages seldom fare much better. Eggs labeled "Cage Free" or "Free Range" simply mean that the birds are not confined to battery cages, not necessarily that the hens are allowed a more natural existence. Neither guarantees that they have adequate space to move around, or that they are allowed outdoors to roam about and forage or dust bathe.
Molting is the natural process of shedding old feathers and the growth of new feathers. Molting initiates a new egg-laying cycle. The natural molting process takes about four months to complete. However, on factory farms, poultry producers induce starvation to control egg production in laying hens (eggs for human consumption) and breeding hens (eggs that hatch into birds used for meat or egg production) to reduce the molting period to one to two months. Performed to increase farm profits, this "forced molting" is extremely stressful to hens. Forced molting methods include food and water deprivation, medications and simulated light and dark cycles. A Poultry Science report found that forced molting in combination with a Salmonella infection created an actual disease state in tested hens. Salmonella infection can be passed on to consumers through egg consumption.
Debeaking is a painful procedure whereby the bird's sensitive beak is sliced off with a hot blade. Poultry meat and egg producers that use battery cages and crowded floor systems remove one-half to two-thirds of the birds' beaks to discourage cannibalistic pecking, a behavior that occurs when birds are kept in close confinement with no regard for their natural behaviors. Behavioral studies indicate that debeaked birds are often unable to eat, drink, and preen properly. They also exhibit behaviors associated with chronic pain and depression.
Toe-clipping is the amputation of a bird's toes just behind the claw. This painful procedure is performed to reduce claw-related injuries on factory farms.
Genetic engineering of broiler chickens and turkeys often results in a bird too heavy to stand or walk. They suffer from pain in their legs and sores on their feet that are induced by their extreme, unnatural size. Kept in polluted dark sheds with as many as 25,000 birds per shed, these birds suffer many of the same ailments as battery hens, such as being debeaked and being forced to live in a toxic environment. Thousands of these birds never make it to slaughter -- they will die while still on the farm from injuries, disease or their inability to reach food and water.
Millions of birds die during the loading of trucks and while en route to slaughter. These sensitive birds, often in very poor physical condition, are grabbed by their legs and thrown into densely packed cages to be transported by truck to slaughterhouses that are sometimes hundreds of miles away. Many die from shock, injury, and suffocation in the process.
The U.S. Federal Humane Slaughter Act does not apply to poultry, meaning that there is no federal law that requires birds to be stunned prior to slaughter. This allows for diversity in commercial poultry slaughter approaches and stunning equipment. When slaughterhouses do use stunning equipment, lack of regulation often results in birds allowed to raise their heads prior to reaching the water bath stunner and therefore not adequately stunned. Problems also exist in neck-cutting equipment, which may result in prolonged and extreme pain caused by necks improperly cut during the killing process.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Decrease or eliminate foods containing poultry products from your diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorses a vegetarian diet.
What could be more romantic than a leisurely carriage ride on a warm summer evening?
In the late 1980s, Whitey, a nine-year-old gelding, collapsed while pulling a carriage during a summer heat wave in New York City. A passing nurse gave Whitey an IV saline solution, and sympathetic police officers sprayed him with cool water for two hours. Eventually Whitey managed to get back on his feet. Another carriage horse, Misty, died from apparent heat exhaustion during the same heat wave. Despite the national attention that was focused on the carriage horse industry after Whitey's collapse--and the outrage of romantics everywhere--little has changed for the horses.
Many horses who end up pulling carriages through city streets are "breakdowns" from harness racing tracks. Standardbreds are often trained to race by being tethered to the back of a truck that drives increasingly faster, so carriage horse operators consider these horses "street savvy." But standardbreds are much smaller and lighter than traditional "draft horses" and are not accustomed to pulling heavy loads. Many other carriage horses are breakdowns from Amish farming communities. Regardless of their source, most horses, as veterinarian Holly Cheever points out, "enter the carriage horse trade with a legacy of previous injuries and debility." When horses can no longer pull heavy carriages, they are sold to rendering plants or dog food companies.
HARD & HARSH CONDITIONS
Even for healthy horses, a carriage ride is not an easy trip. Most cities have only minimal regulations governing working conditions for carriage horses, and these regulations are rarely enforced. Carriage horse operators know all the loopholes in their city's laws. An officer with the Canadian SPCA has said, "[I]f regulations state that a horse can work for nine consecutive hours, but [fail] to say within a 24-hour period, [drivers will] work the horse for nine hours, give the horse an hour or two of rest, then come back on the road." As a result, many horses work 12 or more hours a day, often in extreme weather conditions.
As in the case of Misty, weather conditions sometimes prove fatal for working horses. Carriage horses are exposed to bitter cold and scorching heat. Carriage Operators of North America, a trade organization to which only a small percentage of carriage horse operators belong, says horses may work if the temperature is nine degrees Fahrenheit, well below freezing. In summer months, horses suffering from dehydration or heat stress can die in just a few hours. Some cities outlaw carriage rides when the temperature reaches a certain degree, but often the official weather bureau reading does not accurately reflect the temperature on the streets. A study published by Cornell University, for example, found that the air temperature recorded by the weather bureau can be nearly 50 degrees cooler than the actual asphalt temperature. And the New York City Department of Transportation found that asphalt surfaces can reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
INJURIES & ACCIDENTS
Horses and heavy city traffic can also be a deadly mix. Despite carriage horse operators' claims, most horses are not comfortable working among cars and trucks, and many accidents, injuries, and even deaths--to horses and humans--have been caused by horses becoming "spooked" in traffic. According to Cheever, it is normal for horses to "react to threatening situations with panic and flight." A survey of national carriage horse accidents revealed that 85 percent of all accidents were the result of an animal spooking. Seventy percent of the time there was a human injury, and 22 percent of the time there was a human death. The survey also found that in New York City, which has the highest carriage horse accident rate in the country, 98 percent of the horses who "spooked" became injured.
Injuries and fatalities resulting from collisions between cars and carriage horses have occurred in almost every city that allows carriage rides, including Cincinnati, Ohio; Salt Lake City, Utah; Charleston, South Carolina; Denver, Colorado; Baltimore, Maryland; and Houston, Texas.
SMOKE & EXHAUST
The smoke and exhaust fumes from urban traffic are also dangerous for horses. In a study by veterinarian Jeffie Roszel, "tracheal washes and samples from respiratory secretions of these horses showed enormous lung damage, the same kind of damage you would expect from a heavy smoker." Horses' nostrils are usually only 3 to 3 1/2 feet above street level, so these animals are "truly ... living a nose-to-tailpipe existence."
ABUSE & NEGLECT
Carriage horses also routinely suffer at the hands of poorly trained drivers. Because they are constantly walking and standing on hard streets, "lameness and hoof deterioration are inevitable" in carriage horses, says Cheever. "The problems are worsened by the inexperience of the gross majority of the owners and drivers, who are either incapable of recognizing lameness or are unwilling to suffer financial loss by removing a horse from service for a few days." Many drivers don't know how to fasten harnesses correctly, and either leave straps so loose they rub and chafe the horse's skin, or buckle the straps so tightly they pinch. And few horses are fitted with new horseshoes as often as is needed. Conditions for carriage horses aren't much better when the horses are off the streets.
Raids on carriage horse stables have exposed stalls with no hay or other bedding, stall floors covered with urine and manure, poor ventilation in the stables, and horses who had no free access to water. Many stables have stacked floors--like parking garages--with steep ramps leading from one floor to the next. The floors in one stable were so rotten, they often gave way under the weight of the horses, repeatedly causing animals to break their legs. In 1991, two horses owned by a carriage horse operator in New York died after being fed bad hay.
Not surprisingly, carriage horse operators view attempts to regulate their industry--through stipulations on where and how long horses can work, temperature restrictions, and mandatory veterinary care--as economic threats. One carriage horse operator in Charleston, S.C., even said,"[L]egislation is ridiculous."
In her classic novel, Black Beauty, Anna Sewell wrote, "My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt." People around the world agree and are increasingly recognizing that it's the carriage horse industry--not just the horses--who are taking them for a ride.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Don't patronize the carriage horse industry.
Educate others about carriage horses.
Pressure from concerned residents has resulted in bans on carriage horses in a growing number of cities. Educate your local officials on the issue.
Goats seem to have been first domesticated roughly 10,000 years ago in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Domestic goats were generally kept in herds that wandered on hills or other grazing areas, often tended by goatherds who were frequently children or adolescents, similar to the more widely known shepherd. These methods of herding are still utilized today.
Goats, like cows, are ruminant animals. They have a four chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it. These grazing animals often prefer noxious weeds and plants, which makes them great environmentalists.
Goats are shy at first, but will show adoration and devotion once you have gained their trust. They're frolicsome and have a gentle disposition, but when angered, they can retaliate quickly with a strong head butt. Goats are also clever animals who have been known to use their horns to open gates and feed bins, create and enlarge holes in fences, and batter down boards in confined areas. They also use their horns as back scratchers. Goats are most comfortable in groups, which are known as "tribes."
Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything. Contrary to this reputation, they are quite fastidious in their habits, preferring to browse on the tips of woody shrubs and trees, as well as the occasional broad leaved plant.
It can fairly be said that goats will eat almost anything in the botanical world. Their plant diet is extremely varied and includes some species which are toxic or detrimental to cattle and sheep. This makes them valuable for controlling noxious weeds and clearing brush and undergrowth. They will seldom eat soiled food or water unless facing starvation.
Goats do not actually consume garbage, tin cans, or clothing, although they will occasionally eat items made primarily of plant material, which can include wood. Their reputation for doing so is most likely due to their intensely inquisitive and intelligent nature: they will explore anything new or unfamiliar in their surroundings. They do so primarily with their prehensile upper lip and tongue.
In some climates goats, like humans, are able to breed at any time of the year. In northern climates and among the Swiss breeds, the breeding season commences as the day length shortens, and ends in early spring. Does of any breed come into heat every 21 days for 2 to 48 hours. A doe in heat typically flags her tail often, stays near the buck if one is present, becomes more vocal, and may also show a decrease in appetite and milk production for the duration of the heat.
Bucks (intact males) of Swiss and northern breeds come into rut in the fall as with the doe's heat cycles. Rut is characterized by a decrease in appetite, obsessive interest in the does, fighting between bucks, display behavior, and, most notably, a strong, musky odor. This odor is singular to bucks in rut; the does do not have it unless the buck has rubbed his scent onto them or the doe is in actuality a hermaphrodite. It is instrumental in bringing the does into a strong heat.
Gestation length is approximately 150 days. Twins are the usual result, with single and triplet births also common. Less frequent are litters of quadruplet, quintuplet, and even sextuplet kids. Birthing, known as kidding, generally occurs uneventfully with few complications. The mother often eats the placenta, which gives her much needed nutrients, helps staunch her bleeding, and reduces the lure of the birth scent to predators. After kidding, the kids conceal themselves in small places and lay immobile for hours at a time while their mother feeds. Upon her return, she calls for them and they come out to nurse and play.
A bald eagle, as the nation's official bird, adorns the Great Seal of the United States of America. But if Benjamin Franklin had had his way, a turkey, not a bald eagle, might have famously gripped those 13 arrows and an olive branch as part of the seal. Franklin knew, like others who have spent time around this large bird, that it would have been an honor for the turkey to represent the U.S.
Originating from the Mexican wild turkey, the turkey was domesticated by Native Americans in prehistoric times and introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Early American settlers brought descendants of the Mexican wild turkey to the U.S. and crossed them with another subspecies of wild turkey indigenous to eastern North America to produce the forerunner of the modern domestic turkey.
Turkeys are usually characterized by large tail feathers that spread into a fan when they are courting or alarmed. Turkeys also have several oddly named appendages: the caruncle, snood, wattle and beard. A caruncle is a red fleshy growth on the head and upper neck of the turkey. A snood is the red fleshy growth from the base of the beak which hangs over the side of the beak. A wattle is the red, loose appendage at the turkey's neck. A beard is the black lock of hairy feathers found on a male turkey's chest.
Most turkeys raised for food have been genetically selected to have large breast meat, and they are unable to fly or reproduce without artificial insemination. They are fed a mix of corn and soybeans during their short life. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered for food each year, most at about 14–18 weeks of age. Commercial, domestic hens (or female turkeys) weigh 15–18 pounds by 14–16 weeks of age, and heavy toms (or male turkeys) weigh 25-32 pounds by 16–18 weeks.
Five subspecies of wild turkeys still inhabit much of the United States, with a population estimated at 6.5 million. The most prevalent bird is the Eastern wild turkey, whose forest territory ranges from Maine to parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. Wild turkeys are smaller in size than their domestic counterparts, with a longer neck and body. They have a rich, brown-shaded plumage with a metallic or iridescent sheen, and white and black bars on their primary wing feathers. Toms can stand up to 4 feet tall and weigh more than 20 pounds, while hens are about half that size and weight. Wild turkeys eat nuts, greens, insects, seeds, and fruit, and can live 3–4 years. Their predators include human hunters and animals who disturb their nests, such as crows, raccoons, skunks, snakes and opossums.
Hens begin nesting in late March or early April, laying one egg a day until the clutch reaches 10–12 eggs. They nest on the ground, in a hidden area in the forest or fields of tall grass. Incubation lasts for 28 days, and hatching occurs over a 24–36 hour period in late May or early June. Poults, or baby turkeys, stay near the nest until they are about 4 weeks old and can fly 25–50 feet. This allows them to escape predators by roosting in trees for the night, usually near their mother. By three months of age, turkey groups will begin to form a social hierarchy, and an established pecking order is set by five months of age, at which time groups show subdivision by gender. As full-grown adults, wild turkeys can fly at 55 mph and run at 25 mph.
Hens are protective of their young. They will hiss and ruffle their feathers to scare away trespassers, and will only abandon the nest as a last option. Hatching begins with pipping, where the baby rotates inside the egg, breaking the shell in a circular pattern with its egg tooth (a sharp spike on its beak). Hens cluck as they check the eggs, beginning the critical imprinting process. Social cohesion among the babies is evident the first day after hatching, as is attachment to the mom. Vocal and visual signals are used to maintain close contact. This facilitates the learning of certain important activities, particularly feeding. Turkeys are social animals who prefer to live and feed together in flocks.
Wild turkeys are not protected by legislation. Commercial turkeys are not even included in the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, although poultry make up over 95% of the animals killed for food in America. They are raised in crowded factory farms where they are not able to nest or feed like their wild cousins.
Despite their reputation, pigs have many positive attributes including cleanliness, intelligence and a social nature. Pigs are indeed clean animals. Yes, they do roll in mud, but only because they can't sweat like people do; the mud (or water) actually keeps them cool. If available, pigs, who are excellent swimmers, prefer water to mud. Pigs also carefully keep their sleeping area clean, and will designate a spot as far from this area as possible for waste. Even piglets only a few hours old will leave the nest to relieve themselves.
Those who know pigs can't help but be charmed by their intelligent, highly social and sensitive nature. Pigs are actually more intelligent than any breed of dog. Like dogs, piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called. They are also very discriminating eaters, and are particular about their living space. Pigs enjoy novelty and are extremely active and inquisitive.
When free to roam, pigs spend much of their day enthusiastically smelling, nibbling, manipulating objects with their snouts and rooting ("nosing") about in the soil for tidbits. Rooting is so essential to a pig that some animal scientists say that "a rooting pig is a happy pig." Their powerful but sensitive snout is a highly developed sense organ. A pig's sense of smell is so keen that the animal is trained in France to unearth truffles. Using their snouts as shovels, pigs toss clumps of soil and twigs high into the air, searching for the rare and delicious fungus that grows underground near the roots of oak trees. They are also used by police to help search for drugs.
Few species are more social than pigs; they form close bonds with each other and other species, including humans. They are quite gregarious and cooperate with, and defend, one another. Adults in the entire social group will protect a piglet, leaving their own litters if necessary to defend an endangered youngster. If one pig starts to dig out tree roots, others invariably join in.
Touch and bodily contact are especially important to pigs. They seek out and enjoy close contact, and will lie close together when resting. They also enjoy close contact with people familiar to them; they like being scratched behind the ears and shoulders, and, at the touch of your hand, will grunt contentedly and roll over for a belly rub.
Pigs are vocal and communicate constantly with one another. More than 20 of their vocalizations have been identified. Pigs most often say "gronk" (more commonly known as "oink"), and will say "baawrp" when happy. They have an elaborate courtship ritual, including a song between males and females. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mother's voice, and the mother pig sings to her young while nursing. After nursing, a piglet will sometimes run to her mother's face to rub snouts and grunt. Pigs also enjoy music.
When she is ready to give birth, a sow selects a clean, dry area apart from the group, sometimes walking several miles to search for a good nest site and to gather preferred bedding materials. She hollows out a depression in the ground and lines it with grass, straw or other materials. For several days after her babies are born, she defends the nest against intruders. When her babies are five to ten days old, she encourages them to leave the nest to socialize with the other pigs.
Weaning occurs naturally at three months of age, but young pigs continue to live with their mothers in a close family group. Two or more sows and their piglets usually join together in an extended family, with particularly close friendships developing between sows. Young piglets play with great enthusiasm, play-fighting and moving or throwing objects into the air. Pigs appear to have a good sense of direction, too, as they have found their way home over great distances. Adults can run at speeds around 11 miles an hour, and can trot for relatively long distances.
Yet many pigs do not lead such noble lives; the hog industry confines many female pigs to farrowing crates, claiming these are necessary to protect piglets from being crushed by their careless mothers. Yet when given more room, sows are very gentle with their piglets. Before a mother pig lies down in a bed of straw, she roots around to make sure all the piglets are out, a safeguard against accidentally harming one of them.
Peacocks, also known as peafowl, are medium sized birds most closely related to pheasants. Peacocks inhabit warm climates of the Southern Hemisphere. All peacocks are believed to have originated in Asia, but they now inhabit Africa and parts of Australia. They are most common in India. Peacocks live in deserts, dry savannas, forests and dense foliage areas.
There are three main types of peacock, the Indian peacock, the African Congo peacock and the Green peacock. All three peacock species are known for the elaborately colored feathers and tales of male peacocks. Female peacocks are dull brown.
The giant tail feathers of male peacocks, called coverts, spread out in a distinctive train of over 60 percent of the peacock’s body length. It has vibrant eye shaped markings of blue, red, gold and other colors. Microscopic, crystal-like structures in the feathers reflect different wavelengths of light creating the bright, fluorescent colors.
The train of a peacock is used for mating and defense. Male peacocks attract female peacocks by showing off this array of elaborate feathers. When threatened, they also fan their tails out in order to look larger and intimidating. When the peacock quivers his feathers, they emit a low-frequency sound inaudible to humans. The peacock can change the sound to communicate different messages. Male peacocks shed their train each year after mating season.
Despite their giant tail feathers peacocks are able to fly, though they do not fly very far. When in danger, peacocks fly up into trees. They also spend nights in trees. Peacocks can also run quickly.
Male peacocks are called peacocks, while female peacocks are called peahens. Male peacocks are usually about twice the size of female peacocks. Male peacocks look especially larger than female peacocks when displaying their plumage (feathers). When male peacocks are not displaying, their tail feathers, called trains, drag behind them.
Peacocks are omnivores, feeding on plants, seeds, flower heads, insects, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles. They are known for their snake-fighting abilities.
Peacocks are social birds, but very aggressive towards invaders of their territories. They often play together, especially under the sunlight. Playing peacocks always follow one direction. Peacocks usually travel in groups of up to 10 peacocks.
Peacocks are one of the loudest animals on earth, calling out to each other during the morning and late evening. Peacocks make meowing sounds when it is going to rain. They also make alarm calls when they sense danger. Male peacocks sing to attract female peacocks.
During the mating season, male peacocks mate with up to six different female peacocks. Peahen lay 4 to 8 brown eggs. Mother peacocks incubate the eggs. Peacock babies hatch following an incubation period of about one month. Mother peacocks take care of the peacock chicks without assistance from the father peacock. Male peachicks do not begin to grow their trains until they are about 3 years old.
Peacocks have numerous natural predators, including dogs, cats, raccoons, tigers and the mongoose.
Peacocks live 20 years or more in the wild.
THREATS TO PEACOCKS
Peacocks are threatened due to habitat loss, smuggling, hunting and predation. Peacock populations are declining. Congo peafowl is a vulnerable species, and the Green peafowl is an endangered species.
The poaching of peacocks for their feathers is one of the main reasons peacock populations have decreased by more than 50 percent.
Peacocks face habitat loss like most bird species, causing them to have fewer sources of food, shelter and water. Mining, timber harvesting, animal agriculture, acquisition of their eggs, and hunting are all contributing to reduced numbers of peacocks.
Peacocks are also victims of the pet trade and animal entertainment industry.
Some of the most charismatic and versatile domesticated animals, mules have been used by humans for millennia, working as load-bearers, cart-pullers, and even racing mounts. The exact origin of the mule as a species isn’t known, but it’s likely that the first mules were the result of pairings between wild asses and horses that lived in the same habitats; this is a rare occurrence, though, and nearly all mules throughout history and up to modern days have been domestically bred by humans.
Mules were first popularly bred by the ancient cultures of Paphlagonia (a region that’s now part of Turkey), and they were used as valued pack animals in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations. The mule was also seen as a highly valuable mount in many societies, often being reserved specifically for the use of royalty or nobility.
Christopher Columbus first introduced the species to the Americas in 1495, breeding together donkeys and horses that he had brought with him to the New World for the Conquistadores’ explorations.
The word ‘mule’ itself typically refers to the progeny of a mare (a female horse) and a jack (a male donkey), who, although they belong to two different species, are able to readily breed and produce offspring. Interestingly, foals of jennets (female donkeys) and stallions (male horses) pairings are called hinnies, but they’re far more rare in number, since a jennet’s body is far more efficient at detecting and defending against foreign DNA than a mare’s body. Both hinnies and mules fall under the same species and tend to be classified together as mules.
Although the adage ‘stubborn as a mule’ is widely quoted, in actuality, mules are truly intelligent survivalists, and won’t willingly put themselves in danger from overwork. They’re also widely praised as being anecdotally more patient than horses or donkeys, as well as stronger, more compliant and more curious than their donkey sires, making them hardy, enduring companions. The size and appearance of a mule can vary drastically from individual to individual, and really depends more on the size and lineage of their equine dam. Mules can range from miniature sizes, to smaller pony-types, to tall and lightweight physiques, and even up to moderately heavy weights when they’re bred from draft horses. On average, though, the weight range for a mule is between about 820 and 1,000 lb. In appearance, mules tend to have the thinner limbs, narrower hooves and short manes characteristic to donkeys, but the height, neck length, tail appearance and hindquarters are horse-like, as is their coloration. Mules can appear in sorrel, bay, black or grey, as well as (less commonly) roan, paint, and Appaloosa variations. These personable beasts also have a unique bray, which often sounds different from mule to mule – a humorous combination of ‘hee-haw’ and ‘whinny’.
A fantastic example of hybrid vigour (a phenomenon where hybrid offspring improve upon their parents), and more able to resist common diseases and parasites, mules can survive off of less nutritious fodder, and also typically have a longer lifespan than either horse or donkey. Their skin is less sensitive to pressure and changes in temperature and they’re also adaptable and able to better withstand more extreme climate conditions. Mule hooves are also narrower in size, but thicker and harder in material composition than those of horses.
A mule’s diet (entirely plant-based) tends to depend on the work they do, but, like horses and donkeys, they can thrive mainly on timothy or grass hays, or fresh pasture grazing. Unless they’re frequently working for long periods, most mules don’t need to eat richer alfalfa or grains, since they tend to use the nutrients in their food more efficiently than their equine parents. Mules also tend to be far less likely to consume toxic plants, and won’t generally overeat.
The major growth spurt for mules generally happens later than with horses - around 3-4 years of age - and some mules continue growing in height until they’re 8 or 9 years old. Aside from their slower development rate, the reproductive characteristics of mules are perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these animals. Mules (and hinnies) have 63 chromosomes, which differ from a horse’s 64 and a donkey’s 62. This means that chromosomal pairing typically doesn’t happen correctly if a mule were to mate, meaning that most mules are sterile (not able to produce offspring). There are a few recorded exceptions, however; as historical records since 1527 show 60 cases where foals were carried to full term and birthed from the mating of mule mares with male horse or donkeys.
THREATS TO MULES
Although the use of mules has declined enormously in North America with the introduction of industrial machinery in the late 20th century, mule breeders continue to breed these equids. They are often forced to perform more work than their small bodies can handle. Mules are sometimes kept as "pets", often poorly cared for. Many are left to fend for themselves. They develop deformed and crippled feet, become emaciated or obese and suffer from dental problems and parasite infestation.
The methods used to turn duck and goose livers into the "delicacy" known as pâté de foie gras are anything but delicate. Foie gras is a French term meaning "fatty liver" and it is produced by force-feeding birds. The ducks and geese force-fed for foie gras are compelled to consume much more high-energy food—mostly corn—than they would eat voluntarily. This damages their liver and often kills them.
The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare for the European Union found many examples of abuse as a result of force-feeding, including:
Birds are routinely confined to small cages or crowded pens.
Birds are force-fed tremendous amounts of feed via a 12- to 16-inch plastic or metal tube, which is shoved down their throats and attached to a pressurized pump.
The force-feeding may be performed twice daily for up to two weeks for ducks and three to four times daily, for up to 28 days for geese.
Force-feeding causes the liver to increase in size about 6-10 times compared to the normal size for a bird.
Increased liver size forces the abdomen to expand, which makes moving difficult and painful. An enlarged abdomen increases the risk of damage to the stretched tissue of the lower part of the esophagus.
Force-feeding results in accumulated scar tissue in the esophagus.
The liver can be easily damaged by even minor trauma.
Ducks and geese are social animals who suffer when confined in individual cages. The confinement also can lead to lesions of the sternum and bone fractures, as well as foot injuries from the cage floors. Ducks and geese also suffer when they're not allowed enough water to swim and preen, which they do naturally in the wild.
Originally, all foie gras came from France, but now the United States has gotten into this cruel niche industry.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Refrain from eating foie gras.
The next time you go into a store or restaurant that sells foie gras, please let them know that a product that comes from force-feeding ducks and geese is more than you can stomach.
The domestic sheep is the most common species of the sheep genus. They probably descend from the wild mouflon of south-central and south west Asia. Sheep breeders refer to female sheep as ewes, intact males as rams, castrated males as wethers, yearlings as hoggets, and younger sheep as lambs. In sheep husbandry, a group of sheep is called a flock or mob.
Sheep are ruminant animals. They have a four-chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it. These grazing animals often prefer noxious weeds and plants, which makes them great environmentalists.
Sheep like to stick close to one another for comfort and security. Either black or white, these animals are incredibly gentle. Lambs form strong bonds with their mothers, but they have also been known to bond closely with humans. If a person hangs a piece of clothing outside, a goat who has bonded with that person will run to it for safety when frightened.
Some breeds of sheep exhibit a strong flocking behavior. This was used as an example to Israelites in the Christian bible to instruct them to obey their shepherd, or master. Flocking behavior is advantageous to non predatory animals; the strongest animals fight their way to the center of the flock which offers them great protection from predators. It can be disadvantageous when food sources are limited and sheep are almost as prone to overgrazing a pasture as goats. In Iceland, where sheep have no natural predators, and grasses grow slowly, none of the various breeds of sheep exhibit a strong flocking behavior.
Sheep flocking behavior is so prevalent in some English breeds that special names apply to the different roles sheep play in a flock. One calls a sheep that roams furthest away from the others an outlier, a term originally used to refer to someone who lives far from where they work. This sheep ventures further away from the safety of the flock to graze, due to a larger flight zone or a weakness that prevents it from obtaining enough forage when with the herd. Another sheep, the bellwether, leads the others. Traditionally this was a castrated Ram (or wether) with a bell hung off a string around its neck. The tendency to act as an outlier, bellwether or to fight for the middle of the flock stays with sheep throughout their adulthood; that is unless they have a scary experience which causes them to increase their flight zone.
Every year, approximately 35,000 bulls are tormented and killed in bullfights in Spain alone. Although many bullfight attendees are American tourists, 90 percent of these tourists never return to another fight after witnessing the relentless cruelty that takes place in the ring. Spanish bulls and their many counterparts in Mexico and other countries are victims of a savage display disguised as "art" or "entertainment".
Spanish and Mexican bullfight advertisers lure American tourists with mystique. They claim the fight is festive, artistic, and a fair competition between skill and force. What they do not reveal is that the bull never has a chance to defend himself, much less survive.
Many prominent former bullfighters report that the bull is intentionally debilitated with tranquilizers and laxatives, beatings to the kidneys, petroleum jelly rubbed into their eyes to blur vision, heavy weights hung around their neck for weeks before the fight, and confinement in darkness for hours before being released into the bright arena.
A well-known bullfight veterinarian, Dr. Manuel Sanz, reports that in 1987 more than 90 percent of bulls killed in fights had their horns "shaved" before the fight. Horn shaving involves sawing off several inches of the horns so the bull misses his thrusts at the altered angle.
The matador, two picadors on horses, and three men on foot stab the bull repeatedly when he enters the ring. After the bull has been completely weakened by fear, blood loss, and exhaustion, the matador attempts to make a clean kill with a sword to the heart. Unfortunately for the suffering bull, the matador rarely succeeds and must make several thrusts, often missing the bull's heart and piercing his lungs instead. Often a dagger must be used to cut the spinal cord and spare the audience the sight of a defenseless animal in the throes of death. The bull may still be fully conscious but paralyzed when his ears and tail are cut off as the final show of "victory."
Mexican bullfighting has an added feature: novillada, or baby bullfights. There is no ritual in this slaughter of calves. Baby bulls, some no more than a few weeks old, are brought into a small arena where they are stabbed to death by spectators, many of whom are children. These bloodbaths end with spectators hacking off the ears and tail of the often fully conscious calf lying in his own blood.
The so-called "bloodless bullfights" that are legal in many U.S. states are only slightly less barbaric than their bloody counterparts. Although the bulls in these "fights" are not killed in the ring, they are often slaughtered immediately afterward. During the fights they are tormented, teased, and terrified.
The bulls aren't the only victims of the intense cruelty of the arena. According to Lyn Sherwood, publisher of an English-language bullfight magazine, horses used in bullfights are "shot behind the ear with dope. The horses are drugged and blindfolded and they're knocked down a lot." These horses, who are often gored, usually have wet newspaper stuffed in their ears to impair their hearing, and their vocal cords are usually cut so their cries do not distract the crowd. Fight promoters claim the horses are "saved" from glue factories; this means these animals are often old, tired plow horses who end up being knocked down by bulls weighing up to a half a ton.
Bulls today are specially bred for bullfighting. They are raised on hundreds of registered bull ranches located in various parts of Mexico. Selective breeding has enabled ranchers to create a bull who will die in a manner most satisfying to the public. Because the sight of a wounded bull desperately trying to retreat from the ring would ruin the image of the "sport," bulls are bred to return to the torture repeatedly and appear to be a wild and vicious challenge to the matador.
While its exact origins are not known, bullfighting is believed to have emerged in connection with ancient fertility rites. In 1567, Pope Pius V decreed that "exhibitions of tortured beasts or bulls is contrary to Christian duty and piety." He called for "an end to such bloody amusements, abject and more appropriate for devils than for men." The penalty for violating this decree, which has never been repealed, is excommunication. In 1725, bullfighting began to assume its present state when Francisco Romero invented a stick with a red cloth suspended from the end, which he used to tease and torment the bulls. Today's bullfighting maneuvers became defined in the 1700s and have changed little since. Recent polls of Spanish citizens show they are not particularly interested in attending bullfights. But tourists' money keeps bullfight profiteers in business.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you are planning to visit a country that permits or encourages bullfighting, please tell your travel agent you are opposed to animal cruelty in any form. Many tourist resorts are building bullfight arenas as part of their "recreation" facilities; refuse to stay at such a resort, and write a letter to the owner explaining why you will not stay there. Instead, visit the resort town of Tossa de Mar, which was the first town in Spain to ban bullfights and related advertising. Tell others the facts about bullfighting and urge them to protest as well. When tourists stop attending bullfights, profiteers will stop the cruelty. Bloody or bloodless, bullfighting is a senseless, degrading spectacle that has no place in a civilized society.
The practice of cock fighting, though illegal, is a tradition going back several centuries, and thus difficult to stamp out. Cock fights, like other illegal animal fights, take place surreptitiously.
Cock fights usually result in the death of one, if not both roosters. Handlers place two roosters in a pit. These roosters, armed with sharp steel projections called gaffs, then proceed to peck and maim one another with their beaks and with the weapons that have been imposed upon them. The pit allows roosters no opportunity to escape. Although they have been bred to fight, the animals often become tired, incapable, and suffer severe injuries.
Spectators viewing the fights bet large sums of money. The handler of a winning rooster often makes a big profit. Handlers sometimes give roosters steroids or methamphetamine to make them fight harder and faster.
Although birds in a flock will often fight over pecking order, these battles rarely result in injury. Only birds that have been bred and provoked to fight will inflict the serious injuries seen in cock fighting. Children often witness this cruel spectacle. Because adults bring children to fights as a form of cultural initiation, kids may come away from fights with an insensitivity to violence against animals. Studies have shown that violence against animals is a precursor to violence against humans.
While the United States has a long tradition of cock fighting, as do several Asian cultures, cock fighting should be stopped because of the cruel imposition of violence and death on the animals involved, and for the mental health of children who may attend such fights.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Always boycott all forms of animal entertainment. Report cock fighting to local, state and federal authorities. Educate others on the issue.
Water buffalo, or Asian buffalo, are believed to have originated in Asia, but have been introduced to Africa, Australia, Europe and North America. Wild water buffalo inhabit tropical and subtropical forests. They live in swamps, grasslands, savannas, lowland floodplains, glades and mixed forests – never far from water.
Water buffalo spend much of their time submerged in muddy waters to keep cool and to remove parasites, flies and other pests. Water buffalo hooves are spread out to keep them from sinking into the mud. They are large members of the Bovidae family, the same family as wild cows, the American bison, the African buffalo, the zebu and the yak. The water buffalo is the second largest wild cattle species in the world.
Water buffaloes are black or white in color. They have large, distinctive, curved horns. Males have larger horns than females and are about a third larger than female water buffaloes. The horns of male water buffaloes are crescent-shaped with a ridge along the body of the horns.
Water buffalo live in herds of a few buffalo to hundreds of buffalo. Living in communities provides better protection against predators. Wild buffalo communicate using low grunts and calls. Water buffalo are social animals and are not territorial. Herds are usually led by a dominant, older, female – often accompanied by a single adult male. Water buffalo can be active during the day or night, with feeding usually occurring in the late afternoon and evening.
Water buffaloes are herbivores, feeding on a purely vegetarian diet. Water buffaloes eat aquatic plants when they are in water, but often leave the water to find grasses, herbs and leaves.
Water buffaloes once engaged in long-distance seasonal migrations. They now occupy stable home ranges. Water buffalo travel in single-file, lead by a female adult with calves in the middle and the remaining adults in the rear.
Water buffalo mating season takes place during the rainy season. Males may be aggressive with each other to earn females. After mating, a female water buffalo will chase away the male. The male water buffalo will then seek other females to mate with. Female water buffaloes have one baby every couple of years, following a gestation period of 9 to 11 months. Baby water buffaloes stay with their mother for several years. After about three years, male water buffaloes join all male water buffalo communities. Female water buffaloes often remain with their mother's herd. Older males may lead a more solitary life, or live near female communities.
Water buffalo are preyed upon by large predators including lions, tigers and crocodiles. Their horns are used to protect them against predators. Water buffalo can also run very fast when faced with danger. They are extremely protective of their calves. Female water buffalo will form protective lines in front of their young when threatened by predators. If the threat continues, they flee into forests, tall grass or water.
Water buffaloes can survive over 25 years in the wild and in captivity.
THREATS TO WATER BUFFALOES
Wild water buffaloes are an endangered species due to loss of habitat and hunting, with less than 4,000 remaining. Their numbers are also diminishing as they are interbred with domesticated water buffalo.
The water buffalo has been domesticated by humans for thousands of years and is inhumanely used to pull heavy machinery, carry heavy loads, plow and transport people. Water buffalo are commercially farmed around the globe for their milk, skin, butterfat and meat.
Duck is the common name for a number of species in the Anatidae family of birds. Ducks are divided between several subfamilies. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than their relatives the swans and geese, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water. Swimming gracefully across a pond or waddling comically across the land, ducks are a common feature of the landscape of most of America.
Ducks are very social animals. Males (drakes) and females sometimes live in pairs or together with their ducklings. They communicate both vocally and with body language. At other times ducks spend much of their time—during both day and night—in larger groups. The domestic duck has a normal life span of ten years.
Most ducks have a wide flat beak adapted for dredging. They exploit a variety of food sources such as grasses, grains and aquatic plants, fish, and insects. Some (the diving ducks) forage deep underwater; the others (the dabbling ducks) feed from the surface of water or on land. To be able to submerge easier, the diving ducks are heavier for size than dabbling ducks, and therefore have more difficulty taking off to fly. A few specialized species (the goosander and the mergansers) are adapted to catch large fish. In a wildlife pond, the bottom over most of the area should be too deep for dabbling wild ducks to reach the bottom, to protect bottom living life from being constantly disturbed and eaten by ducks dredging.
The sound made by some female ducks is called a "quack"; a common (and false) urban legend is that quacks do not produce an echo. The males of northern species often have showy plumage, but this is molted in summer to give a more female like appearance, the "eclipse" plumage. Many species of ducks are temporarily flightless while molting; they seek out protected habitat with good food supplies during this period. This molt typically precedes migration. Some duck species, mainly those breeding in the temperate and arctic Northern Hemisphere, are migratory, but others are not. Some, particularly in Australia where rainfall is patchy and erratic, are nomadic, seeking out the temporary lakes and pools that form after localized heavy rain.
In many areas, wild ducks of various species (including ducks farmed and released into the wild) are hunted for food or sport, by shooting, or formerly by decoys. Ducks and geese are wild animals, but they have domesticated counterparts who are raised for their eggs and meat, down and feathers. They're less commonly known as farm animals, yet they can certainly fall within this category.
According to a paper published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, pigs perform as well or better than dogs on some tests of behavioral and cognitive sophistication, and they compare favorably to chimpanzees, our closest human relatives, in addition to other primates.
The article reviews pigs’ full range of abilities by detailing dozens of studies and extrapolating from those results to determine what we do and do not know about pigs. The areas examined by the article include cognition, emotion, self-awareness, personality and social complexity.
Scientists have concluded that “pigs possess complex ethological traits similar … to dogs and chimpanzees.” For example, pigs:
have excellent long-term memories;
are whizzes with mazes and other tests requiring location of desired objects;
can comprehend a simple symbolic language and can learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects;
love to play and engage in mock fighting with each other, similar to play in dogs and other mammals;
live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals and learn from one another;
cooperate with one another and show signs of Machiavellian intelligence such as perspective-taking and tactical deception;
can manipulate a joystick to move an on-screen cursor, a capacity they share with chimpanzees;
can use a mirror to find hidden food;
exhibit a form of empathy when witnessing the same emotion in another individual.
Scientists have shown that pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans.
There are more than 300 breeds of horse in the world today. Horses are herd animals, with a clear hierarchy of rank, led by a dominant individual, usually a mare. They are also social creatures that are able to form companionship attachments to their own species and to other animals, including humans. They communicate in various ways, including vocalizations such as nickering or whinnying, mutual grooming and body language. When confined with insufficient companionship, exercise, or stimulation, individuals may develop stable vices, stereotypies of psychological origin, that include wood chewing, wall kicking, "weaving" (rocking back and forth), and other problems.
Horses are also prey animals with a strong fight-or-flight response. Their anatomy enables them to make use of speed to escape predators. Their first reaction to threat is to startle and usually flee, although they will stand their ground and defend themselves when flight is impossible or if their young are threatened. They also tend to be curious; when startled they will often hesitate an instant to ascertain the cause of their fright, and may not always flee from something that they perceive as non-threatening.
Related to this need to flee from predators is an unusual trait: horses are able to sleep both standing up and lying down. In an adaptation from life in the wild, horses are able to enter light sleep by using a "stay apparatus" in their legs, allowing them to doze without collapsing. Horses sleep better when in groups because some animals will sleep while others stand guard to watch for predators. A horse kept alone will not sleep well because its instincts are to keep a constant eye out for danger. Unlike humans, horses do not sleep in a solid, unbroken period of time, but take many short periods of rest. Horses must lie down to reach REM sleep. If a horse is never allowed to lie down, after several days it will become sleep-deprived, and in rare cases may suddenly collapse as it involuntarily slips into REM sleep while still standing.
Horses are grazing animals, and their major source of nutrients is good-quality forage from hay or pasture. They can consume approximately 2% to 2.5% of their body weight in dry feed each day.
The horses' senses are based on their status as prey animals, where they must be aware of their surroundings at all times. They have the largest eyes of any land mammal, and are lateral-eyed, meaning that their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads. This allows horses to have a range of vision of more than 350°, with approximately 65° of this being binocular vision and the remaining 285° monocular vision. Horses have excellent day and night vision, but they have two-color, or dichromatic vision; their color vision is similar to red-green color blindness in humans where certain colors, especially red and related colors, appear as a shade of green.
Their sense of smell, while much better than that of humans, is not quite as good as that of a dog. It is believed to play a key role in the social interactions of horses as well as detecting other key scents in the environment.
A horse's hearing is good, and the pinna of each ear can rotate up to 180°, giving the potential for 360° hearing without having to move the head. Noise impacts the behavior of horses and certain kinds of noise may contribute to stress.
Horses have a great sense of balance, due partly to their ability to feel their footing and partly to highly developed proprioception - the unconscious sense of where the body and limbs are at all times. A horse's sense of touch is well developed. The most sensitive areas are around the eyes, ears and nose. Horses are able to sense contact as subtle as an insect landing anywhere on the body.
Horses have an advanced sense of taste, which allows them to sort through fodder and choose what they would most like to eat. Their prehensile lips can easily sort even small grains. Horses generally will not eat poisonous plants.
Female horses, called mares, carry their young for approximately 11 months, and a young horse, called a foal, can stand and run shortly following birth. They reach full adult development by age five, and have an average lifespan of between 25 and 30 years.
Horses are highly intelligent animals. They perform a number of cognitive tasks on a daily basis, meeting mental challenges that include food procurement and identification of individuals within a social system. They also have good spatial discrimination abilities. There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as “pets” in developed countries. Domesticated donkeys are also used as guard animals for goats, sheep and cows against the threat of coyotes. Coyotes are the only natural threat to donkeys.
Wild donkeys, called burros, live in desert plains, where they survive on little food and water for long periods. Donkeys were first domesticated around 3000 BC, probably in Egypt or Mesopotamia, and have spread around the world.A male donkey or ass is called a jack; a female a jenny or jennet; a young donkey is a foal. Jack donkeys are often used to mate with female horses to produce mules.
Donkeys are adapted to marginal desert lands. Unlike wild and feral horses, wild donkeys in dry areas are solitary and do not form harems. Each adult donkey establishes a home range; breeding over a large area may be dominated by one jack. The loud call or bray of the donkey, which typically lasts for twenty seconds and can be heard over long distances, may help them keep in contact with other donkeys over the wide spaces of the desert. Donkeys have large ears, which pick up more distant sounds and may help cool the donkey's blood. Donkeys can defend themselves by biting, striking with the front hooves or kicking with the hind legs.
Donkeys can interbreed with other members of the family Equidae, and are commonly interbred with horses. The hybrid between a jack and a mare is a mule. The hybrid between a stallion and a jennet is a hinny, and is less common. Like other inter-species hybrids, mules and hinnies are usually sterile. Donkeys can also breed with zebras in which the offspring is called a zonkey.
Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness. This has been attributed to a much stronger sense of self-preservation than exhibited by horses. Donkeys are quite intelligent, cautious, playful, and eager to learn. Donkeys are affectionate animals and enjoy the companionship of people. Donkeys require companions or they become depressed. The donkey's favorite pastime is rolling.
The grunts made by pigs vary depending on the pig’s personality and can convey important information about the welfare of this highly social species, new research has found.
Scientists specializing in animal behavior and welfare devised an experiment to investigate the relationship between personality and the rate of grunting in pigs. They also examined the effect different quality living conditions had on these vocalizations.
The study involved 72 male and female juvenile pigs. Half were housed in spacious ‘enriched’ pens with straw bedding, while the other half were kept in more compact ‘barren’ pens with partially slatted concrete floors, which adhered to UK welfare requirements.
To get a measure of the pigs’ personalities, the researchers conducted two tests: a social isolation test and a novel object test. Each pig spent three minutes in social isolation, and five minutes in a pen with a large white bucket or an orange traffic cone they had not previously encountered. Their behavior, including vocalizations, were observed. These tests were repeated two weeks later, allowing the researchers to determine if the pigs’ responses were repeatable – the defining characteristic of personality (also known as ‘coping style’ in animals).
They also recorded the frequency of grunts they made by counting the number of grunts produced per minute of the test, and investigated the effect different quality environments had on the sounds made.
The study indicated that pigs with more proactive personality types produced grunts at a higher rate than the more reactive animals. The study also found that male pigs (but not females) kept in the lower-quality conditions made fewer grunts compared with those housed in the enriched environment, suggesting greater susceptibility among male pigs to environmental factors.
The results add to evidence that acoustic signaling indicates personality in pigs. This may have had far reaching consequences in shaping the evolution of social behaviors, the researchers believe. The findings also suggest personality needs to be kept in mind when using vocalization as a measure of the animals’ welfare status.
Principal investigator, Dr Lisa Collins, a specialist in animal health, behavior and welfare epidemiology in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, said: “The domestic pig is a highly social and vocal species which uses acoustic signals in a variety of ways; maintaining contact with other group members while foraging, parent–offspring communication, or to signal if they are distressed. The sounds they make convey a wide range of information such as the emotional, motivational and physiological state of the animal. For example, squeals are produced when pigs feel fear, and may be either alerting others to their situation or offering assurance. Grunts occur in all contexts, but are typical of foraging to let other members of the group know where they are.”
The ostrich is the largest bird in the world. Ostriches are also the fastest birds on the ground, capable of running up to 50 mph. Ostriches are flightless birds due to their size and weight. They use their amazing speed to escape threats.
Ostriches are found natively in Africa and, formerly, the Middle East. The ostrich is closely related to the New Zealand kiwi and the Australian emu. There are five different species of ostrich, most inhabiting areas around central and eastern Africa. Different species of ostrich vary slightly in color and size.
Ostriches have three stomachs. Unlike all other birds, ostriches secrete urine separately from feces. They have two toes on each foot, where most birds have four. The large nail on the larger, inner toe resembles a hoof. Ostriches have the largest eyes of any land animal, allowing them to see predators at great distances. The thin legs of the ostrich are perfectly placed so the body's center of gravity balances on top of the legs. Ostrich feathers hang loosely and do not hook together like feathers of other birds.
Ostriches do not use their wings to fly, but they do use them to shade ostrich chicks, in mating displays, to cover their naked upper legs and flanks to conserve heat, and to help them change direction when running.
Ostriches are omnivores, feeding on a variety of plants and animals. The ostrich diet includes seeds, leaves, grass, flowers, roots and fruit – as well as insects, small mammals and reptiles. Ostriches do not have teeth, so they swallow pebbles to grind their food. They can go without water for several days, using metabolic water and moisture ingested through their food sources, but they enjoy drinking and bathing in water.
It is a myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand. Ostriches lie low when hiding from predators, stretching theirs neck along the ground. From a distance it appears the ostrich has buried its head in the sand. Ostriches also have a powerful kick they use for self-defense that can be fatal to most animals.
Ostriches often spend the winter months alone or in pairs. The rest of the year ostriches commonly live in large communities, or herds. Ostrich communities can consist of a dominant male, females (hens) and their baby ostriches. Ostriches travel together with other grazing animals, including antelopes and zebras.
Ostriches engage in fascinating, complex mating rituals. Males attempt to drive away all other males. Battles between males for females usually last just a few minutes, but can be fatal by competing males slamming their heads into each other. Males alternate wing beats until attracting a female. The two graze in synchronization, then the male excitedly flaps alternate wings while poking the ground with his bill. He will then violently flap his wings to symbolically create a nest in the dirt. While the female runs in circles around him with lowered wings, he winds his head in spiral motions. She then drops to the ground for him to mount her.
An alpha ostrich male constructs a large communal nest in the ground for his hens to lay their eggs. There can be more than 20 eggs in the nest, but usually only a couple eggs actually hatch as they are preyed upon by predators. Each female can determine her own eggs. Ostrich eggs are the largest of any bird species, 10 times larger than a chicken egg. Incubation of ostrich eggs takes about 6 weeks. They are incubated by the dominant female during the day, and by the male at night. Using the coloration difference of the two sexes, they attempt to prevent predators from detecting the nest. The drab-colored female blends in with the sand during the day, while the black male is more undetectable at night. Alpha male ostriches defend ostrich babies from danger and teach them to hunt for food.
Due to their large size and powerful legs, ostriches have few natural predators. The main predators of the ostrich are cheetahs, lions, hyenas and crocodiles.
Ostriches live up to 45 years in the wild.
THREATS TO OSTRICHES
Wild ostrich populations are declining drastically, with most ostriches surviving on farms or in game parks. The Somali ostrich is listed as vulnerable. As human populations grow, they expand into ostrich habitats. The construction of settlements and roads, and animal agriculture, are all contributing to ostrich habitat loss.
Humans are the main predators of the ostrich as they hunt and farm ostriches for their meat, eggs and feathers.
In some countries, humans inhumanely race each other on the back of ostriches.
Cattle, as individuals or as a herd, possess many unique traits, the most distinctive being their social disposition. They are extremely social animals and rely heavily on "safety in numbers"— herds can form with up to 300 animals. Each animal can recognize more than 100 individuals and will closely bond to some herd members, while carefully avoiding others. While the bond between mothers and daughters is particularly strong, calves also maintain lifelong friendship with other herd members.
It is thought that cattle were first domesticated in 6,500 B.C. from wild cattle in Europe and the Near East. Only in the past two centuries have cattle been differentiated into breeds raised for beef or milk. Some cattle still exist as "dual purpose" breeds.
People often refer to all cattle as "cows." Technically, cows are actually adult females who have, usually through having babies, developed adult physical characteristics. Heifers are young females who have not yet had babies or developed the mature characteristics of a cow. Male cattle can be divided into three groups: bullocks, steers and bulls. A bullock is a young, uncastrated male who has begun to display secondary sexual characteristics. A steer is a castrated male, whereas a bull is a mature, uncastrated male.
Cows are sturdy yet gentle animals. They are social animals and form strong bonds with their families and friends that can last their entire lives. The bond between a cow and her calf is especially powerful. If a mother cow is caught on the opposite side of a fence from her calf, she will become alarmed, agitated and call frantically. If they remain separated, she will stay by the fence through blizzards, hunger, and thirst, waiting to be reunited with her baby. This bond continues even after the calf is fully grown.
Cows "moo" to each other fairly frequently, allowing them to maintain contact even when they cannot see each other. But when they can see each other, they also communicate through a series of different body positions and facial expressions.
Cattle usually stand between 4 feet, 9 inches and 5 feet, 6 inches, and “beef cattle” range from 850 to 2,500 pounds depending on breed and gender. In non-commercial herds, cows have been observed nursing their male calves for up to three years.
Cattle have almost panoramic vision, which allows them to watch for predators or humans. They can see in color, except for red. They have an amazing sense of smell, and can detect scents more than six miles away.
Cattle are ruminant herbivores and will swallow vegetation whole, then later masticate their "cud" (chew their partially digested food).
The scientific name for the cattle group is "bos taurus," a subfamily of the bovidae family, which includes other hollow-horned animals.
Interestingly, bulls are much less likely to use their horns than cows. However, the level of aggression can be influenced by the degree of confinement.
Cattle will learn from each other's mistakes: If an individual is shocked by an electric fence, others in the herd will become alarmed and avoid it. If a herd is confined by an electric fence, only 30% will ever be shocked.
Cattle enjoy swimming and running in the moonlight, as they have been shown to remain active for a longer period between their two sleep sessions when the moon is full.
The lifespan of cattle averages 20 to 25 years. However, the lifespan of cattle raised for beef is significantly shortened. These animals are typically weaned at 6 to 10 months, live 3 to 5 months on range, spend 4 to 5 months being fattened in a feedlot, and are typically slaughtered at 15 to 20 months.
Chickens form strong family ties. A mother hen begins bonding with her chicks before they are even born. She will turn her eggs as many as five times an hour and softly cluck to her unborn chicks, who will chirp back to her and to one another. After they are hatched, the devoted mother dotes over her brood, teaching them what to eat, how to drink, where to roost, and how to avoid enemies. Male chickens (called roosters) are most famous for greeting each sunrise with loud crows, often acting as alarm clocks for farmers.
Chickens are fascinating creatures. They have more bones in their necks than giraffes, yet they have no teeth. They swallow their food whole and use a part of their stomach called the gizzard to grind it up. Chickens actually have many similarities to humans: the majority are right-footed (just as most humans are right-handed), they see a similar color range, and they love to watch television. Many also enjoy classical music, preferring the faster symphonies to the slower ones.
Having a private nest in which to lay eggs is extremely important to hens. The desire is so strong, in fact, that a hen will often go without food and water, if necessary, to use a nest. The nest-building process is fascinating. A hen will first scratch a shallow hole in the ground, then reach out to pick up twigs and leaves, which she drops onto her back. After she has gathered some material, she'll settle back in the hole and let the material fall off around the rim. She will continue to do this until her nest is completed.
As highly social animals, chickens can bond very closely to other animals, including humans. They will fight to protect their family and will mourn when a loved one is lost. When they have bonded with a human, chickens will often jump into his or her lap to get a massage that they enjoy fully with their eyes closed, giving every indication of being in ecstasy.
"It's just a chicken" is a retort heard often when concern for the welfare of chickens is exhibited. This comment reflects just how misunderstood these animals are. Chickens are just as deserving of our respect and compassion as are all other animals.
When people think of goats, they often think of a clothesline-munching vagrant. Goats and sheep, however, are more often the source of clothing than the consumers of it. The fibers that become textiles—wool and cashmere, among many other types—are shorn from these animals.
Sheep and goats, like cows, are ruminant animals. They have a four-chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it. These grazing animals often prefer noxious weeds and plants, which makes them great environmentalists.
Goats are shy at first, but will show adoration and devotion once you have gained their trust. They're frolicsome and have a gentle disposition, but when angered, they can retaliate quickly with a strong head-butt.
Goats are also clever animals who have been known to use their horns to open gates and feed bins, create and enlarge holes in fences, and batter down boards in confined areas. They also use their horns as back scratchers. Goats are most comfortable in groups, which are known as "tribes."
Like goats, sheep like to stick close to one another for comfort and security. Either black or white, these animals are incredibly gentle. Lambs form strong bonds with their mothers, but they have also been known to bond closely with humans. If a person hangs a piece of clothing outside, a goat who has bonded with that person will run to it for safety when frightened.
Goats and sheep deserve the same love and compassion from humans that they show to each other.