The root of “breed”

Since there is much discussion about breeds of cats and other animals, let’s pause here for a quick history of the word breed. It comes from the Old English bredan, meaning “to nourish, to keep warm.” (The word brood is rooted in the same word, by the way.)

In times past an individual offspring in a litter could be called a breed. As farmers and animal experts became more aware of animal heredity and how to control it, the term breed took on its current meaning, that is, “a specific type within a species, having distinctive traits that are passed on through genetics.” In addition to cats, there are breeds of dogs, horses, cattle, hogs and so on.

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