Research Round 1 – Evolution of Veterinary Care

Hi everyone! 

My inquiry question is “How has veterinary medicinetechnology and education evolved and what has been its impact? 

To start off my research, I will be looking a bit into the history of veterinary medicine, all the way back to the very beginnings of veterinary medicine. I will be delving into how, why, where and when veterinary practices first started to appear.

Some of the First Official Veterinary Schools 

It was in the 1760’s in France that the first formal veterinary education began (1)(2)(3)(4)(5). The first veterinary school was founded in 1761 in Lyon, France, where it is said that the profession officially began (2)(3)(4). Later in 1766, the next veterinary school was created in Alford, France (2). Because immigration from France had been stopped by the British Conquest in 1760, graduates of these schools likely didn’t come to Canada (2). Then in 1791, the first English veterinary college was established in England (1)(2), the same year when provision was made to colonize upper Canada (2).  The Edinburgh Veterinary College in Scotland was founded in 1823, and the graduates from this school were the first known veterinary practitioners in Canada who had a diploma from a chartered school. In 1851, likely the only veterinary surgeon in the colony of New Brunswick was M.A. Cuming from Saint John, who graduated from Edinburgh Veterinary College in 1846 (2).  

Below is an old photograph of a veterinary school in France: (9) 

Reasons for Veterinary Schools 

The goal of establishing these schools was to lessen the severe economic impact that animal diseases had, rinderpest especially (1). The Lyon veterinary school focused on the study of the anatomy and diseases of sheep, horses and cattle in order to lessen cattle deaths from the plague in France. Cattle plagues happened quite often throughout history, but it wasn’t until the 1950’s when the microscope was invented that they could truly attempt to learn ways to fight microorganisms. It was 1712 that the first cattle vaccinations were developed and used in Europe in order to eradicate a plague. The London Veterinary College, which was established in 1791, was focused mostly on the wellbeing and health of horses, due to horses being used in the Army. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), established in 1863, and the Bureau of Animal Industry, which ran from 1884 until 1900, had the goal to protect people from infectious diseases from contaminated meat, and to eradicate animal diseases and raise the quality of livestock (3). 

Furthermore, it was during the 18th century that the first veterinary schools were established, a period in history that is known as the enlightenment. The enlightenment was a new perspective, a different way of viewing the world, and it put an emphasis on certain principles and ideas that hadn’t been used or thought of much before. Science, in a way, was “invented” during this age. In the 18th century, people were starting to look at humans and other animals in different ways, and it was then that veterinary medicine really started to develop. A subject that helped “lay the foundations” for modern veterinary medicine is the subject of comparative anatomy (5), which is the study of the body structures of different animal species so that we can understand the adaptive changes they have gone through from the evolution from common ancestors (6). Comparative anatomy was quite controversial in the 18th century, as it stretched the boundaries of what people thought they knew and understood. And in addition to comparative anatomy, agricultural improvement was big in the 18th century, and when these two ideas were brought together, the development of the European veterinary schools began. The need to understand and control a disease called rinderpest, or cattle plague, really helped set things in motion (5).  

Below is an image of the effect of rinderpest/cattle plague: (8) 

Before Formal Veterinary Education 

But it was only less than 300 years ago that formal veterinary education began. Before that, many different people looked after animals, including furriers, shepherds, grooms, stockmen and other people who knew about animals and gained skill and knowledge treating them (5). The earliest records we have of veterinary treatment are from India and Egypt (5)(7). Ancient Indian artwork show pictures of people looking after animals, and an emperor from India, Asoka, is known to have established hospitals for animals. In Egypt, the history of veterinary medicine is able to be traced back all the way to 3000 BCE. Egyptians cared for animals, and their concern for them was emphasized by their idea of cats being sacred animals. In fact, their fascination with felines eventually lead to their domestication in Egypt. A Roman scholar, Columella, wrote books about animal care and other related topics such as livestock health and breeding, and he is the first person known to have used the term “veterinarius”. Moreover, there exists documentation in China of different animal diseases, made as early as 2500 BCE. 











That’s all for this week, thanks for reading! In my second round of research, I plan to delve more into the history of veterinary medicine and technology and find out what the most innovative breakthroughs and advances in veterinary medicine have been over the years, going into as much detail as I can for each one and their uses if possible. If you have any ideas, suggestions or websites I could use, feel free to comment below. Thanks! 


One Reply to “Research Round 1 – Evolution of Veterinary Care”

  1. Hey Jessica,
    As a pet owner, it is crucial to have a great veterinarian. It’s quite interesting that it was first thought of within France and the care for animals (specifically cows) was in demand due to the plague taking away lots of their food source. Like always, the layout and format of research round is great and easy to read. Perhaps in the future, you could look into how veterinarians specialize in specific animals. For example, an ER doctor has very different patient situations than cardiovascular surgeons who specialize in hearts. Is it similar for veterinarians where some have specific animals they tend to? Anyways another great round of research and here are some links for your next round of research.

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