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Sicilian ice-cream in a bread bun. A good solution to a local problem: the Mediterranean heat quickly melts the ice-cream, which is absorbed by the bread.
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Holy Cow

(60 min., 2004, DVD 1846)

Holy Cow Nature WebSite

see also



Holy Cow Video, Nature.

This is the story of how we’ve changed the cow and how the cow has changed us, forever. Human history, biology, agriculture and economics have all been affected by this most influential animal. Societies which learned to domesticate the cow prospered, while those that did not were left behind. The cow is an animal that has evolved to eat pretty much anything and miraculously transform it into milk and meat, and a whole range of other products that sustain our daily lives – clothing, fertilizer for our crops, fuel for our fires. A valuable commodity to some, religiously revered by others, it is a beast of burden, a means of transportation, a way of life. Some would argue that we did not domesticate the cow, the cow domesticated us. Whatever the truth, this creature’s many gifts have sustained and supported the human race on our journey to civilization, and each of us continues to owe a daily debt to the humble, extraordinary cow." -- Nature

Corporate Farming
Factory farming
Industrial agriculture

In classical anthropology the East African Cattle people are one of the classic groups. They form what is sometimes called the "East African Cattle Complex, a distinct adaptation of people from the area.


Many anthropological topics
revolve around livestock . . .

  • animal domestication and the Neolitic Revolution

  • food and food prohibitions

    • vegan-ism, Jainism . . .

    • including leisure and hobby activities . . .
  • e.g., Texas BBQ

  • pastoralism

  • lactose intolerance

  • ethical treatment of animals

    • industrial farming

      • water polution

  • law

    • "ag-gag" laws

    • food and health safety

      • antibiotic resistance

      • "mad cow" disease

  • "Culture Focus" on animals

  • art

    • prehistoric cave paintings

  • religion

  • mythology

  • wealth

  • status / prestige

  • marriage and kinship

    • bridewealth

    • segmentary lineages

  • global warming

    • methane emissions

  • commerce / trade

    • leather seat covers

    • leather clothes

    • dog chews / dog food . . .

In the News . . .

Classical peoples and works in anthropology include . . .

The Nuer and the film The Nuer




  • Beidelman, T. A.

    1966 "The Ox and Nuer Sacrifice." MAN 1:453-467/

    1968 Some Nuer Notions of Nakedness, Nudity and Sexuality." AFRICA 38:113-121.

  • Cows Are Key to 2,500 Years of Human Progress -- Guardian (04 April 2010)

  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E.

    1940 The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Niloltic People. New York: Oxford University Press.



    1940 "The Nuer of the Southern Sudan," in African Political Systems, Eds. Fortes, M. and E. E. Evans-Pritchard. New York: Oxford University Press.


    1950 "Kinship and the Local Community Among the Nuer," in A.R. Radcliffe-Brown and D. Fords (Eds.). AFRICAN SYSTEMS OF KINSHIP AND MARRIAGE, London, New York, Toronto.


    1956 NUER RELIGION. Oxford.

    1967 "Some Features of Nuer Religion," in GODS AND RITUALS. Ed. Middleton, John. New York: The Natural History Press.

  • Herskovitz, M. J.

    1962 "The Cattle Complex of East Africa," AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, n.s., Vol. 28, 1926.

  • Howell, P. P.

    1954 A MANUAL OF NUER LAW, London, New York.

  • Kenyan Masai donate cows to US -- BBCNews (03 June 2002)

  • Sahlins, Marshall D.

    1967 "The Segmentary Lineage: An Organization of Predatory Expansion," in COMPARATIVE POLITICAL SYSTEMS. Eds. Cohen, Ronald and John Middleton. New York: The Natural History Press, 1967.

  • Service, Elemn R.

    1968 "The Nuer of the Upper Nile River," in PROFILES IN ETHNOGRAPHY

Holy Cow

"Discover how cows have altered human life, human biology, and the geography of the world."

"About 8,000 years ago, the relationship between cows and man began with the revolutionary advent of domestication in Mesopotamia, the Indus River Valley, and Africa. There were many possible candidates for the job but only the cow fit the specific criteria humankind needed: not too flighty, breeds well in captivity, grows at a good pace, not aggressive, requires a low maintenance diet. Our ancestors chose wisely: Cows provide just about all of our basic needs, from milk and meat to muscle."

"Today there are about 1.5 billion cows in the world. In many different countries humans and cows have formed close relationships. In England, dairy farmer Mark Evans spends all of his waking time with his cows, milking, feeding, and otherwise nurturing them. The African Masai tribe believes that all cattle were given to them from the great god N’gai at the beginning of time — a belief which today remains at the heart of their culture. India is home to a quarter of the world’s cow population. One major reason for this is that India’s majority Hindu community reveres cows and considers them to be “second mothers.”

"NATURE’s Holy Cow explores how we’ve changed the cow and how the cow has changed us."


"Green" Beef Catches On


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