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Cattle, colloquially referred to as cows, are domesticated ungulates, a member of the subfamily Bovinae of the family Bovidae. They are raised as livestock for meat (called beef and veal);, dairy products (milk);, leather and as draught animals (pulling carts, plows and the like);. In some countries, such as India, they are honored in religious ceremonies and revered. It is estimated that there are 1.4 billion head of cattle in the world today.

Cattle were originally identified as three separate species. These were Bos taurus, the European cattle, including similar types from Africa and Asia; Bos indicus, the zebu; and the extinct Bos primigenius, the aurochs. The aurochs is ancestral to both zebu and European cattle. More recently these three have increasingly been grouped as one species. Complicating the matter is the ability of cattle to interbreed with other closely related species. Hybrid individuals and even breeds exist, not only between European cattle and zebu but also with yaks, banteng, gaur, and bison, a cross-genera hybrid. For example, genetic testing of the Dwarf Lulu breed, the only humpless cattle in Nepal, found them to be a mix of European cattle, zebu and yak. Cattle cannot successfully be bred with water buffalo or African buffalo.

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