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What Is Animal Science?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 23, 2024
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In general, animal science deals with the study of non-human animals. More specifically, the discipline emphasizes domestic animals, or animals that are controlled and cared for to some degree by humans. Major biological issues such as physiology, anatomy, and development are investigated by animal scientists. These studies are then applied to issues ranging from animal nutrition to animal reproduction. Targeted sub-disciplines include agriculture and veterinary medicine.

The main area of focus in animal science is the structure and function of domesticated animals. Therefore, scientists may investigate specific body organs and their capacities as well as cellular and chemical processes that take place within the animals. More specific areas of study can result from these investigations, such as cycles of reproduction and how the animals respond to various foods.

Environmental influences and human intervention play a major role in these animals’ lives, so consideration of these issues is commonplace as well. For example, factors like climate and soil richness affect plant growth, and plants are the primary source of nourishment for many domesticated animals. As such, these factors are often of great interest to individuals involved with animal science. Mankind also greatly impacts animals and domesticated animals in particular, either in a personal caretaker capacity or with more large-scale considerations like habitat-destroying industrial growth or animal-based laws and regulations.

Subdisciplines of animal science are numerous. Agricultural science, though, is arguably the area in which animal science has the longest history. In fact, the overall discipline at one time almost exclusively covered farm animals. The study of common farm animals like cows, pigs, and chickens continues at the higher education level and in the everyday world. Common areas of interest might include feeding and grazing patterns, mating habits, and disease susceptibility

Many institutions for higher education offer animal science degrees. Students will often conduct research on live animals and work in correlation with animal-focused businesses like local farms. Classes may focus on subjects like food science, breeding, and microbiology.

Once an individual has entered into animal science studies, a number of career options exist. Since farm animals were the cornerstone of early animal science forays, many individuals continue the tradition by entering into agricultural careers. Others may choose to work with specific animals like horses in equestrian disciplines or dolphins and other domesticated sea creatures in aquatic centers as animal trainers. Medical or science-based careers such as veterinary medicine or zoology provide another source of employment. Additional opportunities include the following: groomer, game warden, animal nutrition specialist, jockey, park ranger, and animal technician.

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Discussion Comments

By pastanaga — On May 25, 2012

@Mor - Genetics is generally a good thing to go into if you are enamored with animal science.

Many of the hottest research right now is concerned with the genetics of various breeds, whether it is changing them, manipulating them, or preserving them.

Even if you want to go into environmental science, it's a good idea to get a firm grasp of genetics. The genetic variety of various species is important to the overall health of the ecosystem.

By Mor — On May 24, 2012

@Iluviaporos - I agree, and the reason it's good to study them is that we don't really know how to raise them in large numbers. Very few people do it at the moment, and traditionally they were simply grown from the wild, so there is no real knowledge about it.

I think the interesting thing, and the thing that might be worth studying, is that insects reproduce so quickly that it would be easy to change populations to suit you relatively quickly.

I remember reading about an experiment in which arctic foxes were bred for gentle natures over 20 years and in the end they were producing mild tempered pups almost consistently.

If you could do that with foxes over 20 years, imagine what you could do with insects.

By lluviaporos — On May 24, 2012

I've always been fascinated by animal science. Specifically I think that a really good area to go into right now is entomology, or the study of insects.

Not just because they are so important to things like fruit crops and as disease vectors. Although if you're looking for careers in animal science, you could do worse than going into something to do with that.

But also because quite a few experts are predicting that insects will become a major food source in the next few decades.

Insects are a bit of a taboo food in most Western societies but in many other countries they are considered a delicacy, or even a staple.

They have high protein content and reproduce very rapidly. They convert energy much more efficiently than cattle. That means you can get more insect per kilo of grain than you can get chicken per kilo of grain.

People think of them as icky, but they used to think of caviar as icky as well. It was once a food that was fed to soldiers as a last resort when all other foods were gone, and now most people can't afford it.

I think one day insects will be just as sought after and it's worth getting into the study of them now.

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