Artiodactyla – Even-toed ungulates

Keeping it holy on two toes!

These creatures are characterized by their even number of toes; typically, two or four make contact with the ground, as seen in the pastoral image of a cow’s foot, which is emblematic of the group. This order must not be confused with the Perissodactyla, or odd-toed ungulates, such as horses and rhinos, which walk on an uneven number of toes.

The artiodactyls have been heralded as some of the most indispensable allies to humankind. Their contributions are indeed so profound that in various cultures, cows, one of the most recognizable members of this order, are venerated to the stature of motherhood—reflecting the nurturing and life-sustaining gifts they provide.

But the cow is merely one chapter in the extensive narrative of the Artiodactyla. This order’s members have woven themselves into the fabric of human civilization with the array of resources they supply. The collective bounty from artiodactyls includes, but is not limited to, meat, which has sustained human populations with essential nutrients; hair and wool for warmth and clothing; leather for durable goods; milk, which has been a cornerstone of nutrition; and transportation, an aspect that has shaped the mobility and expansion of societies.

Beyond their economic value, artiodactyls possess a gentle temperament, akin to the serene grace of deer, that endears them to those who encounter them. Their docile nature and willingness to coexist alongside humans have made them emblematic of love and nurturing in various cultures. The robustness of oxen, the majesty of antelopes, the sturdiness of goats, and the charm of pigs—each species brings its own version of power and beauty to the human experience, representing a diverse spectrum of qualities that have been admired and revered throughout history.

Since the dawn of human civilization, when we transitioned from nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled agriculturalists, artiodactyls have been at our side. They have plowed our fields, carried our loads, and fed our families. They are depicted in our art, celebrated in our festivals, and incorporated into our religions. They stand as symbols of wealth and status, as well as companions and workers.