Historical Background

Rinderpest and foot and mouth disease caused the loss of over 200 million cattle across Europe and Britain in the 16th to 18th centuries.[1] In Italy and England, individuals recognized the infectious nature of the diseases and stopped the epidemics by slaughtering cattle on infected premises and quarantining animal movement.[1] However, epidemics continued to sweep over Europe because no organized body existed to codify these individuals' recommendations.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, farriers and so-called ox leeches provided animal health care to livestock farms. These individuals had no formal training, yet some developed remarkable skills. Two notable books were The Book of Husbandry (1523) by John Fitzherbert in England and The Herdsman's Mate (1673) by Michael Harward of Chesire, England.[1] These authors described fairly sophisticated surgical and obstetrical procedures, several diseases and their treatment, and sound cattle management practices of the day.[1] These texts represented attempts to codify a system of animal health care and management for livestock farms, but formal training programs in schools of veterinary medicine and government regulation of animal disease lay in the future.

By the middle of the 18th century it was recognized that studying animal disease made good sense economically and politically, because animal disease could provide a good model of human disease. As a result, the first veterinary school was established in Lyon, France in 1761.[1] By 1800 there were 19 schools in Europe.[1] In 1862 the first veterinary college was established in North America, in Ontario, Canada.[1] Government regulatory agencies were developed in the late 19th century, such as the U.S. Bureau of Animal Industry in 1884, whose mission was to control and eradicate animal diseases associated with serious economic losses.[1] By the early 20th century, animal health care to livestock farms was a profession. Veterinary health programs evolved from this history, which was based on the host-pathogen philosophy of disease.

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