I think it was Billy Shakespeare who first uttered the words, “Is yonder beast a pet or livestock? That is the question.”
It’s a very fine line. The most common way to separate pets from farm animals is simply by asking if people eat them. We eat beef so cattle are livestock whereas we don’t eat dogs so they are pets. But it’s not that easy. American Indians, Lewis and Clark and some nationalities still eat dogs, so are Chihuahuas therefore livestock? If so, what an insult to cattle and pigs. I would never have considered eating my horse Gentleman, but a Frenchman would.
Some people suggest that livestock are those animals that are raised to be sold. I’ve never sold a dog in my life, never had one worth two cents, to be quite frank, but some people do raise dogs to sell. Are their Welsh Corgies and Bichon Frises therefore livestock?
Pets are called “pets” because we pet them on a regular basis. This theory works in classifying collies and Quarter horses as pets, but if you regularly pet a goldfish or a canary you’ll kill them. And what about chickens? Some deranged people pet them but if you tell someone you have a pet rooster they’ll think you’re half a bubble off. I’ve also heard it suggested that you can teach pets to do tricks. But we once had a chicken we taught to “play dead” and had a Kelpie dog we couldn’t teach to do anything. So was the chicken a pet and our dog livestock?
I’ve heard some people define pets as those animals that can ride in the truck with you. Under this definition a horse would be disqualified as a pet because it won’t fit in the truck without compromising legroom for other passengers. Some people have pet pigs but if some guy drives around with a Berkshire boar right next to him he’ll never get a date with a good looking gal.
A classification system that comes close to working is if you talk to an animal and get a response, then it’s a pet. For example, you can communicate with your dog or horse and it will retort in some fashion, but if you say “Down boy” to a bull that is mauling you I doubt it will do so.
My own way of deciding if an animal is a pet or livestock is if they bite the hand that feeds them. A pet remembers past niceties whereas you can feed livestock the very best hay, protect them from disease and the elements but do they say “Thank you?” NOOO! I once had a cow that became partially paralyzed after giving birth so I put it on a makeshift sled and dragged her to the barn where we fed it and milked it out and gave the milk to her calf. The only reason that cow had the will to live was she wanted to get well enough to kill me.
I did the same thing once for a Siameese cat that belonged to my wife’s cousin that had been run over. For weeks I nursed that cat back to health with IV’s and shots and my wife’s cousin now thinks I’m a miracle worker But her cat? Not so much. The first thing that cat did when she got mobile was scratch me from head to toe. I don’t consider cats pets or livestock. They are wildlife.
Scientists call it a “recovered memory” when an animal remembers you were nice to it and responds accordingly. We once had a ram, Studly, who we gave five star accommodations and provided a harem of 50 beautiful babes whose looks would stop a whether in its tracks. Whenever I would approach Studly you could see in his eyes that he remembered me and appreciated the many nice things I did for him. But he still wanted to ambush me and butt me when I wasn’t looking. Such an animal is not a pet by any stretch of the imagination. Whereas you can have your dog castrated and when he wakes from the anesthesia he’ll still lick your face and jump all over you with signs of affection. That’s the very definition of a pet.
Believe me, “recovered memories” is all Studly had left after I fixed him!