The term is also incorporated into the names of other species, such as the musk ox and "grunting ox" (yak), and is used in some areas to describe certain cattle products such as ox-hide and oxtail.Cow is in general use as a singular for the collective cattle, despite the objections by those who insist it to be a female-specific term.
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No universally used singular form in modern English of cattle exists, other than the sex- and age-specific terms such as cow, bull, steer and heifer.
Historically, "ox" was not a sex-specific term for adult cattle, but generally this is now used only for draft cattle, especially adult castrated males.
Complicating the matter is the ability of cattle to interbreed with other closely related species.
Hybrid individuals and even breeds exist, not only between taurine cattle and zebu (such as the sanga cattle, Bos taurus africanus), but also between one or both of these and some other members of the genus Bos – yaks (the dzo or yattle The hybrid origin of some types may not be obvious – for example, genetic testing of the Dwarf Lulu breed, the only taurine-type cattle in Nepal, found them to be a mix of taurine cattle, zebu, and yak.
Cows of certain breeds that are kept for the milk they give are called dairy cows or milking cows (formerly milch cows).
Most young male offspring of dairy cows are sold for veal, and may be referred to as veal calves.
Merriam-Webster, a US dictionary, recognizes the sex-nonspecific use of cow as an alternate definition, whereas Collins and the OED, UK dictionaries, do not.
Colloquially, more general nonspecific terms may denote cattle when a singular form is needed.
Cattle did not originate as the term for bovine animals. Cattle originally meant movable personal property, especially livestock of any kind, as opposed to real property (the land, which also included wild or small free-roaming animals such as chickens — they were sold as part of the land).