External Appearance

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External Appearance


(also conformation; Russian ekster’er), a scientific term used to refer to the outer forms of an animal’s body structure. In zootechny, external appearance is examined taking into account physical constitution and productivity (seeCONSTITUTION OF FARM ANIMALS).

The appearance of animals has been studied since earliest times. The term conformation extérieure was introduced into zootechny in 1769 by the French scientist C. Bourgelat, who was the first to study the relationship between individual points of the horse’s body and to measure animals (using 40 measurements or more) in order to check the correctness of bodily proportions.

The study of external appearance was at first devoted exclusively to the breeding of ideally formed animals. During the 19th century, however, with the development in many countries of specialized farm breeds, specialists in animal husbandry searched for direct links between body points and productivity. Selection according to individual body points resulted in a weakening of the constitution and external defects.

A proper understanding of external appearance and its role in evaluating the economic values of animals was encouraged by the work of the German scientist H. Natuzius and by the Russian and Soviet scientists M. I. Pridorogin, V. I. Vsevolodov, 1.1. Ravich, P. N. Kuleshov, E. A. Bogdanov, M. F. Ivanov, and E. F. Lis-kun. It was shown that the external examination and measurement of an animal enable specialists to draw conclusions concerning the development of the animal’s internal organs, its strength, health, and breeding characteristics, the correspondence of its body structure to productivity, and its adaptibility to maintenance conditions.

Specific external features are characteristic of animals that are raised for specific purposes. In beef cattle, for example, the body form approaches a parallelepiped, and the torso is deep and broad. The legs are set broadly and squarely, and the musculature is well developed. The head and neck are short and thick. The back and loins are even, broad, and meaty, and the hindquarters are broad and well filled out muscularly. The skin is loose. In dairy cattle the body is conical with more developed hindquarters. The head is elongated, the neck is long and thin, and the chest is deep and long but not broad. The back and loins are straight. The legs are longer and the skin is thin, elastic, and easily drawn out. The udder is large, cup-shaped, and wide at the base.

The primary evaluation of external appearance includes overall and detailed visual examinations and measurements. During the overall visual evaluation one notes the proportions of the body, the characteristics of the body structure, and the relative development of individual parts. The detailed examination is also made visually, with each body point or group of body points being graded according to its importance on a scale running, usually, from 1 to 100. During the measurements, all body points are measured and indexes of body structure are calculated. A photograph of the animal enlarged to a specific scale may be helpful in evaluating its external appearance.


Kuleshov, P. N. Vybor po ekster’eru loshadei, skota, ovets i svinei, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1937.
Pridorogin, M. I. Ekster’er: Otsenka sel’ skokhoziaistvennykh zhivotnykh po naruzhnomu osmotru. Moscow, 1949.
Liskun, E. F. Ekster’er sel’skokhoziaistvennykh zhivotnykh, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1949.
Borisenko, E. Ia. Razvedenie sel’skokhoziaistvennykh zhivolnykh, 4th ed. Moscow, 1967.
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