Only a handful of the thousands of avian and mammalian species on earth have been kept for agricultural purposes. These select species share a few traits in common that equipped them to be especially strong candidates to play such a role in human civilization. Among these are several behavioral traits that have made these animals fit for being kept by humans. Many wild progenitors of modern domesticated cattle were huge, terrific creatures, able to inflict great physical harm on human beings. Through both natural and artificial genetic selection as well as supportive husbandry practices, the conformational, synthetic/productive, and temperamental traits of dairy cattle have been shaped to well serve the needs of humankind.
Genetic strains of cattle kept primarily to yield milk for human consumption have been developed so that today's dairy cattle are unique in their behavior among cattle in general: relatively gentle; catholic feed preferences; amenable to close confinement/restraint and living in large, management-imposed groups; relatively indifferent to early separation of calf from cow; and so on. Behavior of dairy cattle in modern production systems has been thoroughly explored elsewhere.
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