Veterinary Science

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Veterinary Science


or veterinary medicine, a system of sciences concerned with the diseases of animals, ways of increasing their productivity, and methods of protecting human beings from zoonoses. Veterinary science also includes the various state and social measures aimed at protecting the animals’ health and preventing diseases from striking human beings. Veterinary science belongs to the cycle of biological sciences and advances by applying the achievements of medicine, physics, chemistry, and other sciences. Engineering equips veterinary medicine with apparatus and technical devices. As a system of sciences, veterinary science embraces anatomy (normal and pathological), histology, microbiology, parasitology, virology, clinical diagnosis, special pathology and therapeutics, veterinary sanitation, pharmacology, toxicology, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology (with artificial insemination), zoohygiene, immunology, epizootiology, veterinary-sanitary appraisal, and so on.

The tasks of modern veterinary science are complex and varied because of the need to protect animals against infectious, protozoan, helminthic, arachnid-entomogenic, and noncontagious diseases. Of particular importance is the control of diseases common to man and animals and of viral diseases of animals. It is essential to eradicate helminthiases (fascioliasis, echinococcosis, cysticercosis). Many infectious diseases cannot be controlled without studying natural nidality, especially in regions of virgin land development. The geography of diseases and regional pathology are very important in this respect. The elimination of the causative agents and transmitters of diseases from the environment and development of more up-to-date methods of veterinary-sanitary evaluation of the products of livestock raising are of major significance for livestock breeding and hygiene. The control of animal infertility continues to be a particular concern of veterinary science.

The beginnings of the doctoring of animals go back to the time when they were domesticated. In caring for their animals, the first cattle herders doctored them. After writing developed, special texts dealing with veterinary science were written. The oldest information on the treatment of animals dates to the fourth millennium B.C. A papyrus found in Kahun (Egypt) in 1889 and translated by the Soviet academician V. V. Struve describes several diseases of domestic animals. In ancient Egypt veterinary medicine was taught along with other sciences, and there were specialists in the treatment of animals. The states in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were another ancient center of veterinary science. In the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (669-633 B.C.) texts on veterinary science were preserved. These texts show that the ancient doctors were familiar with many animal diseases and methods of diagnosing, treating, and even preventing them. There were persons in India, China, and Palestine who were professionally engaged in the treatment of animals. The oldest references to the treatment of animal diseases are to be found in the Indian religious collections called the Vedas, the Chinese Chou rituals, and the Iranian canon—the Avesta. In ancient Greece, animals were treated by so-called hippiatroi (from hippos, “horse,” and iatros, “physician”). Veterinary science continued to develop in the Middle Ages until the beginning of the 18th century under the name of hippiatrics (teaching on the treatment of horses). The Greeks and Romans left a great many works on veterinary science. The Roman veterinarians borrowed their ideas on animal diseases and methods of controlling them chiefly from Greece. The Roman authors Marcus Porcius Cato, Marcus Terentius Varro, and Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella wrote about animal diseases. In the fourth century A.D., the Roman military writer Flavius Renatus Vegetius described many animal diseases and methods of controlling them. In the tenth century, most of the ancient Greek writings on veterinary science were gathered together in a single collection entitled Hippiatrika. The science developed very slowly in the Middle Ages. The development of capitalism and commercial livestock breeding in Western Europe gave rise to the necessity for training specialists in veterinary matters. In 1761 the French equerry C. Bourgelat opened the first veterinary school in Lyon. Other such schools were quickly established in Alfort (1765), Copenhagen (1773), Vienna (1775), Dresden (1776), Hanover (1778), Budapest (1787), Berlin and Munich (1790), London and Milan (1791), Madrid (1793), and Bologna (1802).

The main concern of veterinary science from the beginning of the 19th century was the pathology of food-producing animals (cattle, sheep, swine), mainly infectious diseases (such as rinderpest, peripneumonia, sheep pox, and foot-and-mouth disease). Up to the 1880’s when L. Pasteur, R. Koch, and some other scientists discovered the nature of the causes of infectious diseases, veterinarians in different countries used mainly quarantine measures to control these diseases. To consolidate the efforts of specialists on an international scale, periodic international veterinary congresses began to be held starting in 1863 (in Hamburg) where mostly measures for the control of animal diseases were discussed.

Veterinary science as a profession came into being in Russia during the tenth to 13th centuries. In the 16th and 17th centuries the first legislation on measures to control epizootics was enacted; sick animals were isolated, and it was forbidden to move cattle. Farriers, horse masters, and bloodletters treated animals. Special information was transmitted by means of the craft, often by inheritance. A substantial number of handwritten and printed works, Russian and translated from foreign languages, were circulating in the 16th and 17th centuries in Russia. In an ukase dated Mar. 31, 1715, Peter I ordered three special “farrier” schools to be opened (in Moscow, Lubny, and St. Petersburg). However, it was not until 1733 that a stable and boarding school began to function in the village of Khoroshevo near Moscow, and its graduates were sent to the Spasskoe School of Farriers. The scarcity of specialists and constant epizootics prompted the government to open veterinary departments in the St. Petersburg (1808), Moscow (1808), and Vilna (1818) medical and surgical academies. Nevertheless, the number of veterinary personnel in the country remained insignificant. (In the 1850’s there was one veterinarian for every 2-3 million head of cattle.) Epizootics continued to rage. (According to incomplete data, 1,222,000 head of cattle died of diseases in 1851.) This compelled the authorities to broaden veterinary education. A veterinary school was opened in Derpt in 1849 and another in Kharkov in 1851. In 1873 the two schools were reorganized into veterinary institutes. A veterinary institute was opened in Kazan, and in 1890 the Warsaw Veterinary School was reorganized into an institute. However, the number of veterinarians in Russia remained low. The implementation of veterinary scientific advances along with ways and means of controlling animal diseases was severely hampered by the private capitalistic character of agriculture, its fragmentation, absence of a single veterinary network, and small number of veterinary personnel. In spite of this, Russian veterinary science became world-famous because of the work of la. K. Kaidanov, V. I. Vsevolodov, I. I. Ravich, M. V. Nentskii, Kh. I. Gel’man, O. I. Kal’ning, and many other scientists who made important contributions to science and practice.

Veterinary science in the USSR. The Soviet social and governmental structure brought about a reorganization of veterinary affairs, especially in connection with the socialist transformation of agriculture, victory of the kolkhoz system, and creation of large state and cooperative agricultural enterprises. From the earliest days of Soviet power, veterinary affairs were concentrated in the hands of the state, which directed and financed them. The veterinary service of the USSR is concerned with the prevention and eradication of animal diseases (including those of birds, fur-bearing animals, fish, and bees). It organizes the implementation of veterinary measures aimed at increasing the productivity of farm animals, and it guarantees the output of disease-free products and raw materials of animal origin. The veterinary service also protects the population against diseases common to animals and man (zoonoses) and protects Soviet territory against the importation of infectious animal diseases from other countries. The performance of these tasks is facilitated by centralization and planning in the direction of veterinary affairs and organization of veterinary measures, and by the existence of uniform veterinary legislation, specifically, the Veterinary Code of the USSR (coordination of veterinary measures with economic plans and broad participation of the population in veterinary measures). Other important features of Soviet veterinary medicine include the provision of veterinary service to livestock breeders in kolkhozes and sovkhozes and emphasis on prevention in the work of veterinary specialists, whereby veterinary measures are closely combined with the production processes in livestock breeding and in the industry that handles its output. Veterinary care in the USSR is free. The general accessibility to veterinary care is assured by an extensive network of therapeutic-prophylactic, veterinary-sanitary, and diagnostic facilities; the presence of specialists in the kolkhozes and sovkhozes; the allocation of funds for veterinary measures; the broadening of veterinary education and science; and the creation of an industry that produces the biological preparations, drugs, instruments, and equipment needed for veterinary purposes.

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE. In the USSR, a distinction is made between state veterinary medicine, which performs interdepartmental functions and possesses appropriate rights of state veterinary control, and departmental veterinary medicine whose functions are limited to a single farm (enterprise or department). The organizations and installations of state veterinary medicine include the veterinary agencies of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR, ministries of union republics and autonomous republics, krai and oblast agricultural administrations of agriculture and the stations under their jurisdiction charged with the control of animal diseases (raion veterinary stations), veterinary hospitals, districts, laboratories, meat-dairy and food control stations, and other organizations and installations of the state veterinary network. Departmental veterinary medicine is represented by veterinarians and their assistants in kolkhozes; sovkhozes; and other state, cooperative, and public enterprises, organizations, and installations; and by organizations and installations of the ministries and departments of the USSR and union republics.

The veterinary service is directed by the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR through the Central Veterinary Administration. The veterinary agencies in the republics are organized in a similar fashion, while the oblasts and krais

Figure 1. Structure of the state veterinary services in the USSR

have veterinary departments of oblast (krai) agricultural administrations. In raions and cities, veterinary affairs are directed by the chief veterinarian of the raion (or city). In a kolkhoz or sovkhoz, the chief (senior) veterinarian of the farm organizes and is in charge of veterinary affairs. The Ministry of Agriculture issues orders, instructions, directions, and regulations on veterinary medicine; sets the main approaches in the efforts to control animal diseases; establishes a network of research centers and institutions; and provides the funds of veterinary service. Departmental veterinary organizations are to be found in the meat and dairy industries, the food industry, armed forces of the USSR and among the troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and State Security Committee, the Central Union of Consumers’ Societies of the USSR, and so on.

As of Jan. 1, 1970, about 40,000 veterinary therapeutic, diagnostic, and veterinary sanitation facilities and organizations were under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR. The number of diagnostic and veterinary sanitation facilities increased 30 and 18 times, respectively, compared to prerevolutionary times.

ORGANIZATION OF VETERINARY MEASURES AND CONTROL OF EPIZOOTICS. Veterinary care in the USSR is brought as close to the kolkhozes and sovkhozes as possible, and the necessary facilities have been created for this purpose. The tendency to develop primarily large-scale veterinary measures by no means precludes individual medical care. Complex surgical operations are far from rare even in a rural veterinary hospital. A wide range of therapy, justified by economic considerations, is promoted by up-to-date diagnostic apparatus, physical therapy equipment, and the latest drugs. The extensive system of veterinary-sanitary inspection of slaughter houses, dairies, and markets is aimed at preventing the consumption of poor-quality food products and at protecting the population against diseases. Considerable importance is attached to the use of various publicity media to disseminate veterinary knowledge among the people.

Rinderpest and epizootic pneumonia, which did great harm to livestock breeding, and glanders of horses were eradicated in the USSR back in the 1920’s and 1930’s; while sheep pox, equine infectious anemia, infectious encephalomyelitis, and lymphangitis of horses were brought under control after the war. Anthrax, swine fever, and fowl plague were reduced to a minimum, and the incidence in animals of brucellosis, tuberculosis, and many other diseases was lowered. The result was a marked decrease in the incidence of zoonoses among humans. The work of the biological industry is an important factor in the eradication of animal diseases.

VETERINARY RESEARCH. The necessary preconditions and considerable funds are available for the development of scientific veterinary thought in the USSR. The first veterinary scientific research institutes, the basis for subsequent expansion of the network of scientific facilities, were established between 1918 and 1920. By 1969 there were 27 veterinary scientific research institutes, 31 veterinary stations, and eight scientific production laboratories. The following are leading branch institutes: the Institute on Experimental Veterinary Medicine, the K. I. Skriabin Institute of Helminthol-ogy, the Veterinary Sanitation Institute, the Veterinary Microbiology and Virology Institute, the Foot-and Mouth Disease Institute, the Poultry Diseases Institute, and the Scientific Control Institute of Veterinary Preparations. The following republic institutes play a major role in the study of regional pathology and epizootiology: the Ukrainian, Byelorrussian, Kazakh, Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijan, and other institutes, as well as zonal institutes, such as the Siberian, Far Eastern, and North Caucasian. The veterinary division of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences is responsible for coordinating research in veterinary science. Soviet veterinary science is noted for its close connection with kolkhoz and sovkhoz production, its planned nature, and the complexity of its research.

The works of many Soviet scientists on veterinary science are widely known. The Soviet school of helminthology founded by K. I. Skriabin has gained worldwide recognition. The Soviet contribution to veterinary microbiology and epizootiology has been great. Ia. E. Koliakov and his coworkers isolated the virus of equine infectious anemia (1932), and S. N. Vyshelesskii isolated the virus of infectious equine encephalomyelitis (1932). I. I. Kulesko developed a vaccine against swine fever (1947), while M. M. Ivanov and S. Ia. Liubashenko developed vaccines against paratyphoid of swine (1949) and leptospirosis (1947), respectively. M. S. Gannushkin worked out a classification of infectious diseases of animals and did research on fundamental problems in general epizootiology. The Soviet scientists V. L. Iakimov, A. A. Markov, I. I. Kazanskii, and others made important contributions to protozoology; they described new species of causative agents and devised an epizootiological classification of protozoan diseases. Advances were made in veterinary sanitation (A. A. Poliakov), pathology and therapy of noninfectious internal diseases (G. V. Domrachev), biochemistry and physiology (S. I. Afonskii), and surgery and obstetrics (B. M. Olivkov and A. P. Studentsov). Many investigators were awarded State Prizes for their work. The results of veterinary research are published in the Trudy (Transactions) of scientific research institutes and institutions of higher learning and in the journal Veterinariia (Veterinary Science), which has been issued since 1924.

Veterinary science abroad In the socialist countries, the veterinary service is administered by the state. The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance coordinates the veterinary services of these countries. In capitalist countries veterinary affairs are organized in three ways: there is a state veterinary service, private veterinary care, and insured veterinary care. In many states, the veterinary service is concentrated in agricultural agencies and, in some countries (for example, Italy), in health agencies. In all the countries, the state veterinary service has the main functions of guarding the frontiers and carrying out veterinary-sanitary inspection.

Western Europe and most of North America (United States, Canada) are largely free from parasitic and infectious animal diseases (rinderpest, glanders, peripneumonia, trypanosomiasis, theileriasis), which once did great harm to livestock breeding. However, even in those countries, rabies, foot-and-mouth disease, sheep pox, encephalomyelitis, swine fever, and other dangerous infectious diseases are still reported (1970). In Asia, Africa, South America, and Central America, infectious animal diseases (such as rinderpest, peripneumonia, foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, African horse sickness, glanders, piro-plasmosis, trypanosomiasis, and various helminthiases) still do great harm, hampering the development of animal husbandry in these countries and threatening to spread elsewhere.

Specialists in veterinary science are trained in more than 200 veterinary institutions, 80 percent of which are in Europe and North America. These institutions of higher learning and veterinary scientific research institutes work on general and regional problems of modern veterinary science. In Europe and North America they work on the prevention and control of diseases characteristic of intensive livestock breeding with high density of the animal population, such as leukemia in cattle, respiratory diseases of poultry, and virus diseases of swine; in Africa and Asia, on parasitic blood diseases, rinderpest, and so on.

Research on the main problems of veterinary science is under the direction of prominent scientists all over the world, including R. A. Alexander (epizootiology, prevention of catarrhal fever of sheep and African swine fever, and prevention of other diseases endemic to Africa); D. Nakamura (Japan; prevention of rinderpest and other infections); G. L. Ramon (France; fundamental aspects of immunity); R. Manninger (Hungary; epizootiology and prevention and treatment of infectious, parasitic, and noninfectious animal diseases); C. Hagen (USA; immunity, epizootiology, prevention of infections); H. Rörer (German Democratic Republic; epizootiology, prevention of infectious animal diseases, especially virus diseases); A. Rafyi (Iran; protozoology and immunity); I. Chenchev and K. Bratanov (Bulgaria; epizootiology); Ubertini (Italy; epizootiology, immunity); W. Beveridge (USA; prevention of infectious animal diseases); P. Garnham (Great Britain; classification and biology of protozoans); B. M. Honigberg (USA; biology and classification of protozoans and epizootiology of protozoan diseases); E. Fayré-Frémiet (France; general aspects of veterinary protozoology); W. O. Neitz (Federal Republic of Germany; epizootiology of protozoan diseases in tropical countries).

Specialists and scientists of most of the countries of the world combined to form the World Veterinary Association. (The USSR joined it in 1928.) An International Bureau of Epizootics, the executive organ of the International Service of Epizootics (84 countries, including the USSR, are members), has been functioning since 1924. Its aim is to encourage and coordinate research on the pathology and prevention of animal diseases for which international cooperation is necessary, collect and disseminate information on the sick rates among animals and on measures of controlling diseases, and study plans for veterinary-sanitary inspection. Members of the International Bureau of Epizootics regularly meet to discuss timely veterinary problems. International veterinary congresses are the main forum for discussions on veterinary science; 18 were held from 1869 to 1967.


Koropov, V. M. Istoriia veterinarii v SSSR. Moscow, 1954.
Koropov, V. M. Veterinarnoe obrazovanie v SSSR. Moscow, 1949.
Ginzburg, A. G., and A. D. Ivanov. Organizatsiia veterinarnogo dela, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.
Veterinarnaia entsiklopediia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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