A Quick Guide to Cattle Terms

4129439614_8643523fb1_oYou’ve probably never realized it, but the LEGO Movie can teach us something about western subculture. When Emmett (the movie’s protagonist) finds himself in the old west world, he is told to blend in. He does so by bursting through the swinging doors and loudly proclaiming to the entire saloon: “Well howdy there! I’m a cowboy! Bang, bang, bang! Shoot, shoot, shoot! Bullet, bullet, gun! (…)What are they all looking at?”

The western and cattle world–like any subculture–comes with a secret code. Much like a password (or rather, a set of passwords), the terminology you use when referring to the actions, equipment, and cattle themselves can give others a bit of insight as to your authenticity. Here are a few lesser-known cattle terms and their definitions.


AI doesn’t refer to something out of a sci-fi movie. It has nothing to do with artificial intelligence or robots taking over mankind. When it comes to cattle AI stands for artificial insemination.


Nothing to do with college football. This is the Body Condition Score, which ranges from 1-10. Usually, cattle should stay in the 4-6 range, as 1-through-3 refer to cattle that are dangerously thin, and 7-through-10 to those considered obese. Not confident in your ability to judge? There’s an app for that.

Bos Indicus / Bos Taurus:

Two types of cattle. If you live in the western hemisphere, when I say the word “cattle,” the image that comes to mind is probably a Bos Taurus. These breeds are English, beef-type cattle.

Don’t confuse Bos Taurus with Bos Indicus, a breed which originated in India and are more suited for heat, disease, and insect tolerance. One such breed is the “Zebu,” which I included here because (as if “Zebu” isn’t a cool enough name on its own) Zebu Bos Indicus sounds like something an army of oversized He-Man action figures might ride into battle.


The El Chapo of cattle. Does your bull have a tendency to jump fences? My condolences: you have a breechy bull.

Broken Mouth:

An aged bull or cow who is losing their teeth. The term makes sense, but I would have gone with “Calf-vity” (Get it? Calf? Cavit–okay, you get it. Moving on.) Sub-term: “Smooth Mouth,”
The teeth are gone. This is either one old cow, or a cow at the end of a long and particularly brutal hockey career.


This term is not an exclusive to cattle, but in highly technical terms, it’s the dangly hangy-down bit of skin around the throat area. Brahman cattle have a particularly luxurious dewlap.

Running Age:

At age 4-8, are they a bit on the older side? Or just right? The answer depends on your perspective. For rodeo livestock, they’re considered older than most. For cattle breeding, they’re usually just right.

Single-Trait Selection:

Also not exclusive to cattle, but when animals are bred with consideration for only one trait (height, frame, length, meat production). It sounds good in theory, “We need more meat, let’s make meatier cows!” But this almost always leads to shorter lifespans, worse quality of life, and other unforeseen issues, due to a much shallower gene pool.


This could sound more like a police scanner code than a cattle term, until you realize that it’s shorthand for “three-in-one,” which means, a pregnant cow who already has a baby by her side. The “three-one” is often considered to be the safest method of investing in cattle, since the cow has proven her ability to procreate, and not just once.

Two Weight:

If the calf’s weight is in the 200-299 range, they are referred to as being “two weight.”

 Urine Pooler:

Not to hammer home the issue on single-trait selection, but this happens when a cow has been bred to have a high tail head (a popular trait in show cows), and is thus unable to be bred because urine pools in the vagina and kills the semen.

Wastey Fronted:

When the animal has too much dewlap. It’s a fine line, Brahmans, and you’re walking it.

This list is absolutely not even close to comprehensive. Part of the reason a “secret code” of vocabulary works is that it takes a lifetime to master it. This list won’t cover a “Bang, bang, bang! Shoot, shoot, shoot!” faux pas, but hopefully it will at least keep you from calling the dewlap the “dangly, hangy-down bit.”

This is a guest post courtesy of Lone Star Western Decor.


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