Occasionally I find myself slipping off into a bit of minutia when it comes to the worlds I’m playing with in my home games. This morning was just such an occasion.
I had been working on a scene my players would be encountering in the countryside when I noted that there was a cattle pasture on the north side of the road. My wife asked, “What kind of cows?”
What kind, indeed.
According to Wikipedia there are more than a 1,000 recognized breeds of cattle in the world. This gets divided up by the type of cattle you’re planning on using as “Beef,” “Dairy,” or “Dual-Breed” cows – the three types that are breed for very different lifestyles. There are multiple spotted, long hair, short hair, and single color varieties. There are kinds with humps, with pointed horns, rolled horns, long horns, and even short, stubby horns.
So what kind do you say when someone asks that question?
Personally I tend to identify the cattle in my games as either Devon, the Texas Longhorn, or the Holstein. These breeds were fairly common when I was growing up, though the Devon is less so now, so it’s easier for me to recall their look, sound, and even smell when I’m put on the spot.
I included the pictures above so that if you have to make a quick call out that you might be able to use one of them as well for your own home games. If you’re looking for other varieties I highly recommend checking out The Cattle Site. It not only has a fantastic “Knowledge Center” where you can explore different breeds but it provides a great glimpse into what concerns modern cattle farmers.
 It should be recognized that you certainly can eat a “Dairy” cow and you can milk a “Beef” cow but that the different varieties have been cultivated to provide the best product for the farmer. Dairy cows produce more, and better tasting, milk as they’ve been selectively bred for that purpose. Beef cows taste better and have better marbling in their flesh than their Dairy brethren. Dual Breeds, by contrast, are neither the best tasting nor the best at producing the most, and tastiest, milk; however, they are fully capable of producing an enjoyable milk and a decent steak.