What kind of animal do you dream of having? Do you want to raise dairy goats? Laying hens? Pet dog, cat, or rabbit? Working dog for farm work (herding or guardian) or a service animal? Beef or dairy cow? There are many, many kinds of animals that people raise for all sorts of reasons!
What to do
Pick one species of animal that interests you, and within that species research breeds and crossbreds. What are the characteristics that are most important to you? For example, if you are looking for a riding horse, good health, gentleness, and trainability might be important. If you are looking for egg-laying poultry, cold tolerance and number of eggs produced per year might be most important.
Answer the following questions (see below for information on what some of these terms mean):
- What species of animal are you choosing? (dog, goat, swine, chicken, etc.)
- What characteristics are important in your animal? You can look at different breeds in books or online to help you find the characteristics of different animals. Each person may have a different idea of what is important to them. Cloverbuds (ages 5-7), list two characteristics you feel are important in YOUR animal; juniors (ages 8-10), list three; intermediates (ages 11-13), list four; seniors (ages 14-18), list six.
- What breed are you choosing? Intermediates and seniors, also include WHY you chose the breed you picked. If you decide to have a crossbred or grade instead of a purebred, why did you make this choice? Seniors, is the breed or crossbred you chose prone to any problems?
- How will you use your animal?
Then take a photo or draw a picture of your ideal animal.
Enter to win a prize
Species: A group of animals having common traits. Some common species used in 4-H are rabbit, cavies (guinea pigs), horse, dog, chickens, ducks and other poultry, cattle, goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, and swine (pigs).
Characteristics: Things that make that animal stand out from other animals of the same species. Some examples are growth rate (how fast they grow), color and markings, productivity (how much milk, fiber, meat or eggs they make), temperament (are they easy to handle and train), size, soundness (how healthy they are), feed requirements, cold tolerance (in NH; in other places, heat tolerance may be more important) and more.
Breed: A group of animals within a species that have been bred for common traits such as body shape, size, color or hair type. Some examples are Holstein dairy cows, Angus beef cows, Golden Retriever Dogs, Barred Rock Chickens and Nubian goats.
Crossbred or Grade: An animal whose parents are not members of the same breed. In dogs, a “mutt” is an example of a crossbred or grade animal. In some cases, crossbreds are intentionally bred (for example in dogs, a Golden Doodle is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle). In other cases, they are the result of accidental breeding.
Hybrid: The result of crossing two members of the same genus, but different species. For example, in the bovid family, sometimes buffalo are crossed with cattle to result in beefalo. In equines, the cross between a donkey and a horse results in a Mule. Hybrids are usually sterile and cannot produce offspring.
Uses: Animals have many uses, including producing food (milk and other dairy products, meat, eggs), fiber (wool from sheep and fiber from alpacas, rabbits and others), service animals (services to people with health conditions and disabilities), companion animals (pets), work animals (working steer/oxen, horses, pack animals including llamas, horses, and goats, working dogs), etc.