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Journal of Creation 21(1):119–122, April 2007

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Identification of species within the cattle monobaramin (kind)


The Bible documents that God made animals according to their kind and with the ability to reproduce and fill the earth. Baraminology, the study of created kinds, uses hybrid data to determine what species can hybridize and thus belong to the same monobaramin or basic type. Hybrid data indicate that domestic cattle (Bos taurus) are in a monobaramin with all other species of the genera Bos, Bison, and probably Bubalus. These species are all within the family Bovidae and subfamily Bovinae. Additionally, there are alleged hybrids between cattle and the musk ox (subfamily Caprinae) and cattle and moose (family Cervidae). More data would be helpful to determine the full extent of this baramin. Variation within the genus Bos shows different individuals adapted to extremes in environmental conditions, from the yak which can tolerate extremely cold environments and high altitudes, to the zebu which can tolerate very hot conditions and is more resistant to parasites.

The yak (Bos grunniens) is a member of the cattle monobaramin that is well adapted to cold environments and high altitudes.

The Bible’s history makes it clear that God created animals according to their kinds and with the ability to reproduce and fill the earth.1 The study of created kinds is sometimes called baraminology (from Hebrew ברא bara’—create, מין mîn—kind). One technique used to determine if two species belong to the same baramin (created kind) is to demonstrate that they can hybridize with each other or they can both hybridize with a third species. Species that are linked by hybrid data are termed a monobaramin (or basic type2). However, lack of hybridization is inconclusive since differences can arise during speciation which prevent hybridization.3

In vitro (done in a laboratory, outside the animal) fertilization is a well developed technology for a number of animal species, including cattle. This has been a useful tool in attempts to form hybrids. Mere fertilization is not considered sufficient evidence of hybridization. The embryo must develop to the point where there is a coordinated expression of embryonic genes.2 There is no strong consensus within creationist circles of exactly when this occurs.4

Biblical creationists recognize that intrabaraminic (within kind) changes may occur over time. Such changes may be related to God’s provision and help animals survive in particular environments. Other changes are recognized as being degenerative and the result of the Curse (Genesis 3, Romans 8:19–23).5 However, the evolutionary notion that all living things have a common ancestor and throughout history have gained new organs and complex, well-integrated biochemical pathways is rejected. Both the historical accounts of Scripture and the pattern of changes seen in the real world are in direct conflict with molecules-to-man evolutionary ideas.

In my previous paper,6 I identified a number of species within the Tsoan (sheep-goat) monobaramin. There was insufficient hybrid data to conclude that cattle (members of the genus Bos) belong to the Tsoan monobaramin, so they are examined separately in this paper.

The biblical record

The Bible is not primarily a book about biology. However, it is completely true in all that it presents and it makes comments that relate to biology. Thus, it is essential to examine it to properly develop models regarding animal origins and relationships.

Within the English language, the term ‘cattle’ has changed somewhat in meaning over the years. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines cattle as ‘Beasts or quadrupeds in general’ that are used in Man’s service. It further states that ‘In its primary sense, the word includes camels, horses, asses, all the varieties of domesticated horned beasts or the bovine genus, sheep of all kinds and goats, and perhaps swine. In this general sense, it is constantly used in the scriptures.’7

Table 1. A hybridogram for cattle (Bos spp., family Bovidae, subfamily Bovinae) showing relevant crosses. V = viable hybrid(s); VF = viable, fertile hybrid(s); ? = presumed or alleged hybrid(s); B = well developed blastocysts produced in vitro; I = insufficient in vitro development to consider a true hybrid; * = the same species. Click for larger view

Early historical narratives in the Bible were written in Hebrew, so a look at Hebrew words, including their definitions and how and where they are used, can give us a solid base for un­der­stand­ing what the Bible teaches. There are a number of Hebrew words that have been translated as cattle. The first is בהמה (behēmâ), which is often translated ‘cattle’ in English translations.8 It is used 190 times beginning in Genesis 1:24.9 Strong’s Concordance defines it as ‘any large quadruped or animal’.10 The Brown, Driver, & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon reports a range of meanings: from ‘beasts (collectively used of all animals)’ to ‘cattle, livestock (used of domestic animals)’ to ‘wild beasts’.11 A specific example of where it refers to more animals than are likely related to the Bos genus is in Leviticus 11:2. It says, ‘These are the living things which you shall eat out of all the בהמה (behēmâ) that (are) on the earth.’12 The passage then goes on to describe how animals which chew their cud and have a split hoof are clean, but the camel, rock badger, hare, and swine are not.

A second Hebrew word that is sometimes translated as cattle is מקנה (miqneh). It first appears in Genesis 4:20 and is used 78 times.13 Strong’s defines it as ‘something bought, i.e. property, but only livestock; abstractly, acquisition.’ It is used in Genesis 13:2 to relate that ‘Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.’ Several verses previous to this (Genesis 12:16) it mentions that he had oxen, sheep, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.14 Also, Joseph, as the second highest official in Egypt, traded food for miqneh during the famine after the people ran out of money. This included horses and donkeys as well as herds (cattle) and flocks (sheep and goats).15

The Hebrew word בקר (bāqār) refers more specifically to members of the genus Bos. It first appears in Genesis 12:16 where it is translated ‘cattle’ in the NIV and ‘oxen’ in the KJV. It occurs just over 180 times.16 It is also used in Job to describe his livestock.

The Hebrew word שור (šôr) also refers to cattle in the modern context. Generally translated bull or ox, this word is used 79 times.17 It first appears in Genesis 32:5 when Jacob is returning with his wives and children to Canaan and is sending his brother Esau a message in an attempt to make peace with him. However, the word is also used in the book of Job. Job is generally regarded as a contemporary of Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.

The Hebrew word פר (par) and its feminine form פרה (pārâ) refer to bulls and cows and are used 133 and 26 times respectively.18 They first appear in Genesis 32:15; the same passage mentioned above where Jacob returns to Canaan.

The KJV translates שה (śeh) and צאן (tsō’n) as cattle in Genesis 30:32 and 39 respectively.19 The first term describes ‘one of a flock, a lamb, a sheep, a goat … ’. The second refers to ‘sheep, sheep and goats, flock … ’ which some Bible dictionaries refer to as small cattle.10

In summary, the words sometimes translated ‘cattle’ before the Flood20 have a broader meaning that often includes animals that are most certainly apobaraminic (from different kinds). Words that refer to cattle appear in narratives about Abraham and Job some 400 years after the Flood. At that time sheep and goats were distinct from cattle. Also, horses were distinct from donkeys.21 We recognize that horses and donkeys can hybridize to form a mule, so they belong to a monobaramin. Scripturally, there is insufficient data to determine whether or not cattle are in a monobaramin with sheep and goats.

Hybridization data

Within the genus Bos, hybrids form quite readily. Domestic cattle of European descent (Bos taurus, 2n = 60) hybridize with Indian cattle, or the zebu, (B. indicus, 2n = 60) to form fertile offspring so that the latter is sometimes considered a subspecies of the former (i.e. B. taurus indicus). The yak (B. grunniens, 2n = 60) will hybridize with the above species as well; the resulting females are fertile, but the males are sterile. The guar (B. frontalis, 2n = 58) and the banteng (B. javanicus, 2n = 60) have formed a three way cross with domestic cattle. Other hybrid combinations have been formed as well. With the exception of the first cross mentioned, hybrid males are nearly always sterile while the females are fertile.22 This is in spite of the fact that, except for the guar, they all have the same number of chromosomes.

Both the American bison (Bison bison, 2n = 60) and the European bison, or wisent, (Bison bonasus, 2n = 60) have hybridized with various Bos species. Again there is the pattern of fertile females and usually sterile males in the hybrids. Water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis, 2n = 48 or 50) have been observed mating with the gaur and zebu cattle, but no progeny have been observed. Hybrids between water buffalo and domestic cattle (B. taurus) have been reported in China, but they are generally regarded as doubtful because other attempts have repeatedly failed.22 In vitro fertilization has resulted in hybrid embryos that developed until about the 8-cell stage, but then failed and did not express mRNA transcripts found in control buffalo embryos.23 However, at least one study was able to bring hybrid embryos to the advanced blastocyst stage, with cattle oocytes fertilized by buffalo sperm resulting in a significantly larger percentage of blastocysts than the reverse cross.24

A report of hybrids between zebu cattle and the eland (Taurotragus oryx, 2n = 31 in males, 32 in females) exists. Further attempts to cross the eland with domestic cattle have failed, so these ‘hybrids’ are considered by some to be eland bulls.22

All hybrids considered thus far are within the subfamily Bovinae, however there are also alleged hybrids between domestic cattle and species outside this subfamily. One is with the muskox (Ovibos moschatus, 2n = 48) which belongs to the subfamily Caprinae. Sheep also belong to the subfamily Caprinae. Attempts to artificially cross sheep with cattle have resulted in fertilization and development to the 8-cell stage, but the embryos failed to transition from maternal to embryonic control as indicated by a lack of RNA synthesis.25

In vitro fertilization of cattle oocytes with sperm from the endangered scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah, 2n = 56–58) from the subfamily Hippotraginae has been reported. However, the embryos were only reported to have reached the 5-to 8-cell stage.26 The purpose of the study was to evaluate the quality of oryx semen rather than investigate the viability of the hybrid embryos. Until such embryos are documented to undergo further development, this cross should not be considered a hybrid because a coordinated expression of embryonic genes has not been demonstrated.

Cattle, sheep and the oryx are members of the family Bovidae. Mating has been reported to occur between cattle and a species of deer (Cervus elaphus, 2n = 68), a member of the family Cervidae. There has also been an alleged hybrid between a cow and a moose (Alces alces, 2n = 68 or 70) which is also in the family Cervidae.

Natural variety within the kind

Cattle vary in body build (e.g. beef breeds vs dairy breeds), size, coloration, and horn morphology (e.g. longhorn vs shorthorn vs polled (no horn)). The yak has long, coarse hair and a dense, woolen undercoat that grows in the winter. The yak is able to endure colder environments and higher altitudes that any other cattle.27 On the other hand, zebu cattle, such as the Brahman, have large pendulous ears, a dewlap (folds of loose skin that hang down in front of the chest), a hump over the neck and shoulders from extended dorsal processes, and better developed sweat glands than other cattle. Zebu cattle can withstand hotter environments and are more resistant to parasites than other cattle.28


All species in the genera Bos and Bison can be considered part of the cattle monobaramin. Bubalus is probably included since some hybrid embryos have developed to the advanced blastocyst stage. In one study cited,23 failure around the 8-cell stage was associated with a lack of mRNA transcripts. This suggests that coordinated expression of embryonic genes is necessary for an embryo to develop past this stage into a morula and then a blastocyst.29 The blastocyst stage, at least in cattle, is when the embryo would be placed back into a recipient animal for implantation and further development. More research should be done to determine if the advanced blastocyst stage is really a satisfactory indicator of hybridization in mammals.

Alleged hybrids of cattle with members of another subfamily (Caprinae) and family (Cervidae) hint that the holobaramin (all organisms derived from the created common ancestors, whether known or not) could possibly include the entire family Bovidae and several, if not all, of the five other ruminant families.30

Considerable variety is apparent within the cattle monobaramin. In my previous paper on the Tsoan (sheep-goat) monobaramin,6 I suggested that some of the variety may have resulted from directed mutations. These are changes in genes that occur in response to certain environmental clues and help the organism adapt to the new environment. So far, heritable directed mutations have only been documented in microbes. Within the evolutionary paradigm, mutations are essentially the result of random processes. In the creationary paradigm, mutations may be programmed into the genome so animals could adapt to changing environments after the Curse. Further study of variation within monobaramins, particularly looking at the molecular basis of these differences, may reveal programming of an infinitely wise Creator who provides for his creation in ways we had never before imagined.

First posted on homepage: 11 December 2008
Re-posted on homepage: 13 November 2015

References and notes

  1. Genesis 1:20–31. Return to text.
  2. Scherer, S., Basic Types of Life, p. 197; ch. 8 of Dembski, W.A., Mere Creation: Science, Faith and Intelligent Design, Downers Grove, IL, 1998. Return to text.
  3. Catchpoole, D. and Wieland, C., Speedy species surprise, Creation 23(2):13–15, 2001. Return to text.
  4. Wood, T.C., Wise, K.P., Sanders, R. and Doran, N., A refined baramin concept, Occas. papers of the BSG No. 3, p. 3, 2003. Return to text.
  5. See Smith, H.B., Cosmic and universal death from Adam’s Fall: an exegesis of Romans 8:19 23a, J. Creation 21(1):75–85, 2007. Return to text.
  6. Lightner, J.K., Identification of species within the sheep-goat kind (Tsoan monobaramin), J. Creation 20(3):61–65, 2006. Return to text.
  7. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, electronic version, Christian Technologies, INC., July 2006. Return to text.
  8. For example in Genesis 1:24 in the King James version, the New King James version, the Revised Standard version, the New American Standard Bible, and the Message. In this passage the New International Version translates it ‘livestock’. Return to text.
  9. Kohlenberger III, John R. and Swanson, James A., The Hebrew-English Concordance to the Old Testament, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, No. 989 (Strong’s No. 929), 1998. Return to text.
  10. BibleSoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Seattle, WA, 1994. Return to text.
  11. The Online Bible Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Woodside Bible Fellowship, Ontario, Canada, 1993; Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research. Return to text.
  12. Adapted from Green, J., The Interlinear Hebrew Greek English Bible, Vol. 1, Associated Publishers and Authors: Wilmington, DE, pp. 283–284, 1976. Return to text.
  13. Kohlenberger, ref. 9, No. 5238 (Strong’s No. 4735). Return to text.
  14. Green, ref. 12, pp. 28–29. Return to text.
  15. Genesis 47:15–18. Return to text.
  16. Kohlenberger, ref. 9, No. 1330 (Strong’s No. 1241). Return to text.
  17. Kohlenberger, ref. 9, No. 8802 (Strong’s No. 7794). Return to text.
  18. Kohlenberger, ref. 9, No. 7228, 7239 (Strong’s No. 6499, 6510). Return to text.
  19. Kohlenberger, ref. 9, No. 8445, 7366 (Strong’s No. 7716, 6629). Return to text.
  20. The Flood is recorded in Genesis 6–8. Return to text.
  21. See Job 39:18, 19 for mention of the horse; Abraham had donkeys (Genesis 12:16). Return to text.
  22. Gray, A.P., Mammalian Hybrids, Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux: Farnham Royal, Bucks, England, 1972. Return to text.
  23. Patil, S. and Totey, S., Developmental failure of hybrid embryos generated by in vitro fertilization of water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) oocyte with bovine spermatozoa, Mol. Reprod. Dev. 64(3):360–368, 2003. Return to text.
  24. Kochhar, H.P.S., Appa Rao, K. BC, Luciano, A.M., Totey, S.M., Gandolfi, F., Basrur, P.K. and King, W.A., In vitro production of cattle-water buffalo (Bos taurus-Bubalus bubalis) hybrid embryos, Zygote 10(2):155–162, 2002. Return to text.
  25. Slavik, T., Kopecny, V. and Fulka, J., Developmental failure of hybrid embryo originated after fertilization of bovine oocytes with ram spermatozoa, Mol. Reprod. Dev. 48(3):344–349, 1997. Return to text.
  26. Roth, T.L., Weiss, R.B., Buff, J.L., Bush, L.M., Wildt, D.E. and Bush, M., Heterologous in vitro fertilization and sperm capacitation in an endangered African antelope, the scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), Biol. Reprod. 58(2):475–482, 1998. Return to text.
  27. Breeds of Livestock: Other Species, ansi.okstate.edu, July 2006. Return to text.
  28. Breeds of Livestock: Cattle: (Bos), ansi.okstate.edu, July 2006 Return to text.
  29. Although this study classified some hybrid embryos as having reached the morula and blastocyst stages, the total cell number (TCN), 7.9 ± 4.1, was significantly less than those of the buffalo controls, 95.2 ± 7.2. The paper reports that the nuclei stopped dividing, but the cytoplasm continued to do so giving the appearance of further development. In ref. 24, TCN for the same hybrid cross was 62.4 ± 10.3 compared to 65.1 ± 9.1 in buffalo controls. The TCN for the reverse hybrid cross, cattle oocytes fertilized with buffalo sperm, was 89.6 ± 23.7 compared to cattle embryos 102 ± 12.6. While the second study did not look for mRNA transcripts, the characteristics of the blastocysts, including the percentage of cells comprising the inner cell mass, are consistent with viable embryos that could be successfully implanted back into an animal. Return to text.
  30. The six ruminant families are Bovidae (cattle, sheep, goat and antelope), Cervidae (deer), Tragulidae (mouse deer). Moschidae (musk deer), Antilocapridae (pronghorn), and Giraffidae (giraffe and okapi). They are in the suborder Ruminantia because they all have the unique ruminant stomach. Return to text.