August is National Goat Cheese Month (really, it is). In honor of that, we'll share some tidbits about ruminants.
First off, what is a ruminant? A ruminant is an animal that has a stomach made up of four compartments (rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum). They include cattle, sheep, goats, giraffes, deer, bison, and many other related species. There are also pseudo-ruminants that include camels, alpacas, and llamas that have three compartments.
The rumen of ruminants is specially designed to break down plant matter that the animals would not be able to break down on their own. Various microorganisms live in the rumen to help with this process of fermenting and digesting.
Giraffes are the tallest ruminants (and the tallest land animals).
Cattle, sheep, and goats can all be raised for meat and dairy products. Sheep and goats are also used for wool and fiber, and cattle are used for leather.
The Ancient Egyptians worshipped Hathor, a cow goddess of love and motherhood. In Hindu-dominant countries like India and Nepal, cattle are still regarded as sacred, and injuring or killing them is a crime.
Contrary to the notion that they will eat anything, goats are actually quite discriminant about what they eat. They will, however, taste a variety of things.
A male goat is a buck or billy. A castrated male is a wether. A female goat is a doe or nanny. Young goats are referred to as kids.
A male sheep is a ram, and a female is a ewe. A castrated male is a wether. Young sheep are referred to as lambs.
In cattle, males are bulls (steers if castrated), females are cows (heifers when young), and babies are calves.