Veterinary Anthropology

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Veterinary anthropology (Ethnoveterinary medicine; zootherapy) refers to the use of acupuncture, herbs, animal-based drugs and Ayurveda medicine for use in veterinary medicine.

This holistic approach is aimed as considering alternatives to mainstream pharmaceuticals in an attempt to address various etiologies beyond viral, bacterial, environmental and neoplastic causes of disease. Alternative therapies are often a community-based approach that serves to improve animal health and provide basic veterinary services in rural areas[1]. In addition to its focus on botanicals, ethnoveterinary medicine covers people's knowledge, skills, methods, practices, and beliefs about the care of their animals. Ethnoveterinary medicine provides valuable alternatives to and complements western-style veterinary medicine. Ethnoveterinary remedies are accessible and easy to prepare and administer, at little or no cost to the farmer[2].

Traditional veterinary practices are documented from as long as 14,000 years ago[3], being at least as ancient as animal domestication[4]. Through the centuries, indigenous people have learned to use the native natural resources in treating illnesses or infirmities in themselves and their livestock. The adaptation of the various human groups to the rich biological resources generated invaluable local knowledge systems that include extensive information on animal uses in general and medicinally useful species in particular[5]. Ever since, animals or animal parts have been broadly used in Brazilian traditional medicine and have played a significant role in healing practices.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 80% of the world's more than six billion people rely primarily on animal and plant-based medicines[6]. However, in spite of the worldwide prevalence of traditional medical practices, research on medicinal animals has often been neglected in comparison to medicinal plants[7]. Drugs of animal origin are still rare in the scientific literature[8].

Ethnoveterinary knowledge is currently in use not only in developing countries, where often no other resources are available, but in developed ones as well, where it constitutes a very valuable complement and/or alternative to the so-called Western veterinary medicine[9][10].


  1. Mathius-Mundy E & McCorkle CM (1989) Bibliographies in Technology and Social Change, No6: 199. Technology and Social Change Program, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011, USA; Ethnoveterinary medicine: an annotated bibliography.
  2. Jabbar A et al (2005) Possible role of ethnoveterinary medicine in poverty reduction in Pakistan: Use of botanical Anthelmintics as an example. J Agri Soc Sci 1(2):187–195
  3. Wanzala W et al (2005) Ethnoveterinary medicine: a critical review of its evolution, perception, understanding and the way forward. Livestock Research for Rural Development 17(11)
  4. Mathias E et al (1996) Introduction: ethnoveterinary research and development. In: McCorkle CM, Mathias E, Schillhorn Van Veen TW, editors. Ethnoveterinary Research and Development. London, UK: Intermediate Technology Publications. pp:1–23
  5. Souto, WM et al (2011) Medicinal animals used in ethnoveterinary practices of the 'Cariri Paraibano', NE Brazil. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed 7:30
  6. Alves RR & Rosa IL (2005) Why study the use of animal products in traditional medicines? J Ethnobiology Ethnomedicine 1:1–5
  7. Alves RRN et al (2011) Animal-based Remedies as Complementary Medicines in the Semi-arid Region of Northeastern Brazil. Evid-Based Compl Alt 2011(ID 179876):1–15
  8. Pieroni A et al (2002) In: Des sources du savoir aux médicaments du futur/from the sources of knowledge to the medicines of the future. 1. Fleurentin J, Pelt JM, Mazars G, editor. Paris: IRD Editions. Animal remedies in the folk medicinal practices of the Lucca and Pistoia Provinces, Central Italy. pp:371–375
  9. Carrió E et al (2012) Plant ethnoveterinary practices in two pyrenean territories of catalonia (iberian peninsula) and in two areas of the balearic islands and comparison with ethnobotanical uses in human medicine. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2012:896295
  10. Mathias ER et al (2001) Ethnoveterinary Medicine: An Annotated Bibliography of Community Animal Healthcare. London, UK: ITDG