A prerequisite for good communication is proper and generally agreed upon definitions. For the purposes of the Journal the following definitions will be used. These definitions are subject to change as the editor's understanding of various terms changes. Additional definitions will be added as important terms are introduced in future issues. As these terms are used in the text for the first time they will be highlighted and underlined and linked to the Glossary.

Animal rights, according to the Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, is the belief "that animals have rights in much the same way as people do." Advocates of animal rights argue that ethical consideration should be expanded from a preoccupation with humans to include at least some animals, and that animals have intrinsic worth and possess inherent or natural rights that humans ought to respect. Specifically, animals should not be viewed as property nor used as food, clothing, research subjects, or entertainment. Animal rights advocates are divided into two camps: One camp argues that the perception of better animal welfare facilitates continued and increased exploitation of animals, whereas the other camp believes that the increasing concern for animal welfare is an incremental step towards eventual animal rights. The second camp would be reluctantly sympathetic to stockmanship; the first camp would not.

Animal welfare, according to the Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, is "the avoidance of abuse and exploitation of animals by humans by maintaining appropriate standards of accommodation, feeding and general care, the prevention and treatment of disease, and the assurance of freedom from harassment and unnecessary discomfort and pain." Concern for animal welfare is based on the awareness that nonhuman animals are sentient (i.e., capable of experiencing pain and suffering), and therefore should not be subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering. Stockmanship is congruent with the concerns of animal welfare. Animal welfare is often contrasted with animal rights, which holds that animals should not be used by humans at all and should not be regarded as their property.

Balance point refers to a point, which when crossed during an in-line movement (i.e., reverse-parallel or forward-parallel), will generally cause the animal to move in the opposite direction. For instance, if a handler working a chute crosses the balance point of an animal (whether by moving from head to tail or tail to head) the animal will tend to move in the opposite direction. (Grandin, 2008, believes that this is a hard-wired, innate behavior that helps prey animals protect themselves from predators.)

Behaviorally-correct means based on established animal behavior principles (to be enumerated and discussed in a future issue).

Behaviorally-incorrect means not based on established animal behavior principles.

Conventional horsemanship refers to human-centered, behaviorally-incorrect, physically-oriented methods of horsemanship that are often crude, coercive, and based on fear.

Conventional livestock handling refers to human-centered, behaviorally-incorrect, physically-oriented methods of handling livestock that are often crude, coercive, and high stress.

Dog handling refers to the training and handling of livestock dogs that is congruent with low-stress livestock handling principles and techniques.

Drive/Driving refers to moving livestock from one place to another using the principles and techniques of low-stress livestock handling (as outlined in Bud Williams’ Low-Stress Livestock Handling in Volume 1, Issue 1, and Low-Stress Livestock Handling: Mapping the Territory in Volume 1, Issue 2). Bud Williams talks of “driving,” not “herding,” livestock, whether down the trail, into a corral, through a gate, down an alleyway or onto a scale. By driving livestock, Williams is referring to initiating and maintaining good movement and control, and not pushing, chasing, or otherwise over-pressuring animals. (“Driving” for Williams is what Smith, 1998, calls “herding.”) According to Williams, herd and herding are terms that come from herding sheep where the herder lives with the band 24 hours a day. Williams rarely uses these terms in conjunction with working cattle. (“Herding” for Smith, 1998, is what Williams calls “driving.”) Also, according to Williams, trail and trailing refers to when you have sufficiently good movement and the cattle are driving themselves: “When the cow in the lead moves ahead, the cow behind her moves up so she’s driving that cow. The cow that moved up is drawing the next cow, but when she moves up she’s driving the cow in front of her. So they’re driving each other as well as drawing each other” (Bud Williams’ Low-Stress Livestock Handling, p. 62). The important point, then, when trailing cattle is that “you don’t want to do anything to distract them from following the other animals” (Bud Williams’ Low-Stress Livestock Handling, p. 22). Furthermore, as Williams explains, most of our cattle know where they’re going anyway, especially if going to summer pasture, so they don’t need to be driven; all they need is a little help getting started so they’re mothered-up and then doing a little guiding along the way.

Driving refers to the active process of initiating and maintaining movement in livestock. It is distinguished from “trailing” and “herding.” Driving correctly should lead to livestock trailing out with good movement, in which case active driving is no longer necessary. Herding livestock refers to the process of actively herding them like a band of sheep.

Environmental factors include such things as proper nutrition, exercise, space requirements (density), social structure (animal hierarchies and social groups), and shelter that minimize stress.

Ethical means "morally correct" and comes from the branch of philosophy known as ethics which is concerned with the questions of right and wrong behavior, the goodness or badness of human character and conduct, justice and virtue. Ethical treatment of animals, then, is what is considered by an ethical person to be right, good, just, and virtuous. Unethical treatment of animals would be considered by an ethical person to be wrong, bad, unjust, and nonvirtuous.

Facilities design refers to the design of physical livestock handling systems (e.g., corrals, crowd pens, chutes), portable and fixed, that takes into account animal behavior principles and maximizes efficiency and willful animal compliance while minimizing stress.

Flight zone, as defined by Grandin (2008), is the point at which a grazing animal “no longer can tolerate the approach of a person or other animals and moves away” (p. 33). Similarly, Smith (1998) defines it as the “distance a predator (herder) can approach before the targeted animal moves” (p. 124). The flight zone, according to Smith, is dynamic and its size and shape depends on several factors, including: the animal’s species, breed, age, sex, genetics, disposition and temperament; past handling and experiences; the handler’s size and demeanor, approach angle and speed, eye contact, and whether on foot or mounted; proximity of conspecifics; time of day, season, and weather; obstacles and terrain; and the psychological and physical state of the animal.

Human-centered means putting the human, its point-of-view and needs first.

Humane means having or showing compassion, sympathy or benevolence, usually as regards the treatment of animals (e.g., treating animals with kindness and inflicting the minimum of pain or suffering). Inhumane treatment of animals would be callous, heartless, merciless, brutal or cruel.

Livestock refers to any domestic farm or ranch animals regarded as an asset.

Livestock-centered means putting the animal, its point-of-view and needs first.

Low-stress livestock handling,1 is a livestock-centered, behaviorally-correct, psychologically-oriented, ethical and humane method of working livestock which is based on mutual communication and understanding. Low-stress livestock handling is distinguished from conventional livestock handling. The term "low-stress livestock handling" was coined circa 1990 by Allan Nation, the publisher and editor of the Stockman Grass Farmer, to describe the unique livestock handling of Bud Williams. Williams has used the phrase, "Teaching Low-Stress Livestock Handling Methods," for many years as the subtitle to both his Stockmanship School and his Stockman Grass Farmer 1990 Grazing Conference Video.

Natural horsemanship refers to a method of training and working with horses that is congruent with low-stress livestock handling principles and techniques. Natural horsemanship is distinguished from conventional horsemanship.

Pressure zone refers to the area just beyond the outside boundary of the flight zone, the boundary representing the “threshold” beyond which the animal reacts. Smith (1998) suggests that this boundary is best thought of not as a distinct line but as a “fuzzy” area of increasing probability that the animal will move if approached further, and can be from a foot to several yards wide (p. 117, 118). It is this fuzzy area that the Journal defines as the “pressure zone.” In low-stress livestock handling we generally work the pressure zone; this is where we will be most effective because we can stay in “contact” with the animal(s) and generate a more controlled response, whereas penetrating the boundary of the flight zone is more likely to result in flight, as the name implies.

Psychologically-oriented means to work with livestock psychologically instead of just physically. For instance, to move livestock psychologically we move their minds first by making our idea the animals' idea so they willingly do what we want. To work with livestock psychologically presumes an understanding of and respect for how they perceive and think about their world and what their needs are. "Psychologically-oriented" is contrasted with "physically-oriented," which denotes coercively making livestock do what the handler wants.

Ranch roping is a low-stress, slow-speed, versatile, practical, ethical and humane style of roping. It is distinguished from rodeo-style team and calf roping, which are high-stress, high-speed sports.

Stockman, in its conventional usage, refers to someone who owns, raises, or looks after livestock. For the purposes of the Journal, stockman refers to someone who practices stockmanship. As used in the Journal, the term stockman is gender neutral.

Stockmanship is the knowledgeable and skillful handling of livestock in a safe, efficient, effective, and low-stress manner. Primary aspects of stockmanship include: low-stress livestock handling, natural horsemanship, ranch roping, dog handling, and facilities design. Other aspects include such things as environmental factors and veterinary care. Stockmanship denotes a low-stress, integrated, comprehensive, holistic approach to livestock handling. As used in the Journal, the term stockmanship is gender neutral.

Stress is a state of physical, mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from exposure to a stressor. Almost anything in excess that creates a disturbance in an organism's homeostasis can be a stressor, such as: heat, cold, hunger, toxins, pathogens, noise, pressure, changes in location, isolation, physical or emotional trauma, fear, pain, novel stimuli and new experiences. Human handlers can cause, modify, multiply or dissipate stress in animals--with or without knowing it--and the idea behind low-stress livestock handling is to handle animals in such a manner as to dissipate preexisting stress, create minimal to no additional stress, and create psychological well-being and physical health.

Veterinary care deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries in nonhuman animals. Veterinary care can be supportive or nonsupportive, noninvasive or invasive, preventive or interventional. Stockmanship-oriented veterinary care tends toward the former, not the latter.

1. "Low-stress" is hyphenated when used in conjunction with "livestock handling" because it is a phrase used as an adjective to modify the term it precedes. When not used as a compound modifier "low stress" is not hyphenated (see Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association).


Grandin, T. (2008). Humane livestock handling. Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Smith, B. (1998). Moving ‘em: A guide to low stress animal handling. Kamuela, HI: The Graziers Hui.