Anyone who loves cows may have heard the newest rumor that cows are related to giraffes. When I heard this odd piece of information, I wanted to find out if it was true.
Are Cows Related To Giraffes? Giraffes are not the closest relative to a cow. However, a cow may be one of the giraffes closest relatives, depending on how you determine the relationship. Giraffes are most closely linked to the okapi. After that, giraffes are genetically linked to cows, deer, and pronghorns.
Okapi are a large mammal that is striped in the legs and has a dark coat over the body. It looks sort of like a mix between a zebra and a donkey. It is the only animal classified in the same family as the giraffe. It is native to Congo. So, the Okapi is the closest related animal to the giraffe. After that, cows are the next closest related animal. However, giraffes are closely related to cows when compared with other close relatives.
Cows are more closely related to yaks and bison. Yaks and bison can be successfully bred with cows. Animals have to be pretty closely related to be able to breed with one another.
Even though cows and giraffes are related, there is quite a bit of debate over how to classify animal relationships. For example, animals can be genetically linked, feature related, or taxonomy related.
Why Can’t Scientists Agree If A Cow and Giraffe Are Related?
One reason that there is little agreement around if a cow and a giraffe are related is due to the fact that giraffes have few close relatives. Other than the okapi, there are no other animals in the giraffe’s immediate class. Even okapi and giraffes are not known to be able to breed. This means that scientists must use other methods to determine if giraffes and cows are related.
As we’ve seen, giraffes have fewer close relatives than a cow. Does that mean that they are not closely related because a cow has many breeds of animals more closely related to it than a giraffe? Or should they be considered related because a cow is a giraffe’s closest relative?
Consider a scenario involving you and your best friend. Your closest relative is a parent and sibling. However, your BFF is an orphan. Her closest living relative is a 2nd great uncle once removed. See the difference?
Another reason why scientists can’t agree is that there are many ways to classify relationships. One is through animal taxonomy. This branch of classification sorts animals according to similarities. Taxonomy has occasionally been revised as scientists learn more about different species of animals and so it isn’t 100% accurate. Additionally, taxonomy hasn’t yet been able to classify animals according to genetic markers and traits.
Genetics is another method of classifying animals. Because genetically sampling animals is very expensive, a very small portion of all animals have been tested. It also means that scientists have to compare two animals against each other. Genetic classification is very time-consuming because there is not enough information to classify all the animals in the world.
Genetic testing has found some rather different animals to be more closely related than previously thought through taxonomy.
This includes the fact that bears and seals are more closely related than previously thought. The same goes for dolphins and rhinos.
What Other Animals Are Giraffes Related To?
Taxonomically, giraffes are related to the okapi because they are in the same genera family Giraffidae. No other animal is in the same family as the giraffe and okapi. The next closest relative is the pronghorn, which belongs to the superfamily Giraffoidea.
Cattle belong to the Bovidae family, which is cows can be considered a closer relative. That is why many people debate what else giraffes are related to. Some of those debates include grouping animals by other characteristics.
One of these classifications is to group animals by ungulate class. Giraffes are even-toed ungulates. Other even-toed ungulates include hippos, moose, deer, sheep, camels, llamas, pigs, antelopes, and buffaloes. Through this classification, giraffes are not considered related to the cow.
- Even-Toed Ungulates:
As you can see, none of the animals that are most closely related to a giraffe are very similar to a giraffe. There are at least eight extinct species of giraffes that are closely related to the giraffe.
What Are Cows Related To?
Cows are part of the bovine family. That means that cows are classified as closely related to other animals in that family such as goats, sheep, gazelles, antelope, and yaks. But, cows are most closely related to buffaloes and antelope. Cows are even-toed animals so they are also considered to be related to giraffes, hippos, and deer.
Are Cows Domesticated Bison?
Cows and bison have evolved differently so they are not the same animal. Cows are not domesticated bison and there are several major differences between cows and bison. Bison wander more, don’t regraze the same site, and are much larger.
Cows are used for milk and meat production and are calm animals. Bison, on the other hand, are used for meat, but never for commercial milk. Plus, even when bison are raised on a farm or ranch, they are still considered wild animals.
It is also important to remember that bison and buffalo are considered different animals. Bison are found in North America while Buffalo is found in the old world. Genetically these animals are different.
Bison and cows are genetically compatible and can breed. It is estimated that the vast majority of the American bison is no longer purebred. In fact, Yellowstone National Park boasts the last remaining wild, purebred bison in the world. The herds have about 3,500 bison in the park.
- Bison are larger and genetically different
- Cows will regraze in the same season while bison won’t
- Both bison and cows chew a cud
- Bison are always considered wild, while cows are domesticated
- Cows and bison are closely related, but their genetic differences started a long time ago
- Cows are native to the old world (Europe and Asia), while bison are only native to the new world (North America)
Are Giraffes Related to Horses?
Horses are more closely related to a rhino than a giraffe. The idea that horses and giraffes are related stemmed from the fact that horses and giraffes both have hoofs. Horses are single hoofed and giraffes are considered to be two-toed. A giraffe’s toes are considered to be hoofs by scientists. As a result, horses and giraffes are NOT considered to be closely related.
Are Pigs and Elephants Related? Originally scientists thought that pigs and elephants were related because their skin is similar. However, elephants and pigs are not considered related. Pigs are more closely related to boars and hogs. Elephants are in a class of their own so their closest relative is more distant and includes dugongs and manatees. The elephants closest relative is extinct.
Are Cows and Horses Related? Cows and horses are not closely related. A cow is more closely related to a whale than a horse, according to genetics. Additionally, a horse is more closely related to a rhino than a cow. Horses are most closely related to zebras and donkeys. Horses are also more closely related to other extinct species than to cows. These species include perissodactyls, according to the American Museum of Natural History.