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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

An excellent foundation course in animal physiology and anatomy.

Develop a sound foundation of knowledge in animal anatomy and physiology to use as:

  • A basis for understanding the care and management of animals in domesticated or wild situations.
  • A starting point for working with animals in any applied situation (farms, vet reception, zoos, wildlife, parks, animal protection shelters etc.).

The course covers: cells and tissues, the digestive system, the circulatory system, the urinary system, the nervous system, respiration, reproductive systems, muscles, skeleton, growth, development and more.

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A foundation course in animal studies.

Designed as a starting point for working with and caring for all types of animals, this course is useful for farmers and other agriculture workers, animal welfare carers, and people transitioning into animal care. In this course you'll study the basic physiology of livestock, growth factors, and more.

"The course teaches you the different systems within animals in terms of structure and function, cell and tissue structure, and also the differences between different categories of animals."
Marius Erasmus - B.Sc.Agriculture, B.Science (Wildlife), M.Sc.Agriculture

  • Study the basic physiology of horses, cattle, sheep, dogs, goat, and pigs
  • Apply your learning in a farming setting – understanding how animals work will help you ensure proper nutrition, care, and more
  • Useful for wildlife management and other wildlife workers


Course Duration: 100 hours.

The course comprises 11 lessons as outlined, below.
  1. Introduction to Cells and Tissues
    • Livestock classes, livestock products, interrelationship between crops and livestock, cells and tissues, special properties of cells, osmosis, nutrient waste.
  2. The Digestive System
    • Digestive system, mouth, tongue, teeth, oesophagus, simple stomach, small intestine, large intestine, ruminant stomach, accessory organs of the digestive system, digestion, absorption and utilisation in the simple stomach, enzymes, breakdown by microorganisms, digestion, absorption and utilisation in the ruminant stomach, mechanical action, action of micro-organisms, utilisation of the end products of digestion
  3. The Circulatory System
    • Circulatory system, composition of blood, functions of blood, clotting mechanism, immunity, blood vessels, arteries, veins, capillaries, physiology of the circulatory system, rates of heart beats, spleen, lymphatic system, circulatory networks.
  4. The Urinary System
    • Anatomy of the urinary system, kidneys, ureter, bladder, physiology of urinary system, excretion in different animals.
  5. The Nervous System
    • Central and peripheral nervous system, main parts of the nervous system, neurons, sensory neurons, motor neurons, central nervous system, the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nervous system, cranial nerves, spinal nerves, autonomic nervous system, reflex actions, endocrine system, structure and function of the ear, hearing, structure and function of the eye, the iris, structure and function of the nose.
  6. Respiration
    • Anatomy of respiration, trachea, bronchial tree, lungs, physiology of respiration, gaseous exchange, rate and depth of breathing.
  7. The Reproductive System
    • Anatomy of the male reproductive system, testes, accessory organs, penis, physiology of male reproductive system, hormone production, sperm production, erection, ejaculation, fertility problems in males, venereal diseases, other diseases, injury, physical immaturity, emotional immaturity, nutrition, poor handling, anatomy of female reproductive system, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, physiology of the female reproductive system, ovulation, oestrus cycle, fertility problems, difficulties conceiving, venereal and other diseases, physical abnormalities, nutrition, inability to carry a foetus to full term, pregnancy and parturition, fertilisation, pregnancy, parturition,birth process, difficult births, structure of the mammary glands, secretion of milk, milk ejection, reproduction data for cows, sows and ewes.
  8. Muscles & Meat
    • Muscles and meat, smooth muscle, striated voluntary muscle, cardiac muscle, structure of meat, dressing out percentage, composition of the beef animal, meat quality and tenderness, juiciness, flavour, cuts and joints of meat.
  9. The Skeleton
    • Bones, how bones are formed, anatomy of bones, fractures and fracture healing, five types of bone, joints of bone, the skeleton, dentition, the dental formula, cattle, dental formula of an ox and cow, eruption of permanent teeth, pigs.
  10. Animal Growth, Development, and the Endocrine System
    • Growth and development, growth curve, prenatal growth, post-natal growth, fat, factors which affect the size of newborns, factors affecting post-natal growth, early maturing, compensatory growth, endocrine system, pituitary gland, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenal bodies, pancreas, testes, ovaries, pineal body, mucous membrane of the stomach.
  11. Comparing Different Animals
    • Poultry, digestion, gullet, crop, proventriculus, gizzard, intestine, caecum, rectum, incubating eggs, natural incubation, symptoms of a broody hen, fish.


  • Explain the physical components of animals, including cells and tissues.
  • Explain the digestive system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • Explain the circulatory system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • Explain the urinary system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • Explain the nervous system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • Explain the respiratory system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • Explain the reproductive system of animals, including structure and function.
  • Explain the muscular system in animals, including the structure and function of muscles.
  • Explain skeletal systems of a typical mammal, in terms of both structure and function.
  • Explain the biological mechanisms underlying the growth and development of animals.
  • Explain the endocrine system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • Explain differences between different types of animals, in terms of both structure and function.


These are just some of the things you will do:

  • Distinguish between the major animal types used in primary production, including birds, fish, ruminants, and non ruminants.
  • List different types of products commercially produced or derived from various farm or wild animals.
  • Explain the role of pastures for animal husbandry, in your locality.
  • Explain an example of how cells interact in live animals.
  • Differentiate between the composition of three different types of animal tissues, using illustrations.
  • Explain the function of different animal tissue types.
  • Describe the processes of nutrient and waste exchange in animal cells.
  • Explain the role of accessory organs, including the liver and the pancreas.
  • Outline differences in the care of 2 animals observed. Comment on any differences observed.
  • Explain the biological functions of blood in animals studied
  • Explain the structure of an artery.
  • Explain the role of the urinary system of animals.
  • Describe different components of the nervous systems of studied animals.
  • Distinguish between the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.
  • Describe the structure of the sensory organs, including the ear, eye and nose.
  • Explain how the respiratory system functions in animals.
  • Explain two different 'difficult birth' conditions encountered in animals.
  • Distinguish between the slides of 3 different muscle types including smooth muscle, cardiac muscle, and striated muscle.
  • Define meat quality in relation to muscle development.
  • Identify the cuts and joints of meat derived from sheep, cattle, and pigs.
  • Explain how bone is formed in an animal.
  • Describe the healing process for the different types of fractures.
  • Explain the processes of growth and development at a cellular level.
  • Distinguish between different endocrine glands, for a specified animal, by location, appearance, and function.


You can start the course at any time. It is studied by distance learning, so you can study in the comfort of your own home. But this doesn't mean you are all alone in your studies.  Our highly qualified and friendly tutors are there to help you every step of the way.  If you have any questions at all, they are always happy to help.

Each lesson includes set tasks, and is completed with an assignment which the student submits to their course tutor.  The tutor will mark the assignment and return this to the student with comments and suggestions for further reading.


  • Our courses are written and taught by experienced professionals, so you know you can expect a high quality of teaching and support.
  • You can start the course at any time and study at your own pace (we do not impose a time limit for you to complete your studies).
  • Fit your studies around your own busy lifestyle - we provide full tutor support for all the time you are studying.
  • Study where you want to – online studies offer the flexibility for you to determine where and when you study.


  • With a foundation of knowledge of animal anatomy and physiology you are well placed to understand the care and management of animals.
  • This course is a great starting point for working with animals (on farms, zoos, wildlife management, etc.)


"I think [studying with ACS] is absolutely brilliant. I have never come across such a friendly, helpful staff and am so enjoying my course. I will definitely recommend ACS to anybody who wants to study"
Tanya, United Arab Emirates - Animal Husbandry course.


To enrol go to the panel towards the top right of this page.  If you have any QUESTIONS or need help in choosing the right course for you, please get in touch with our specialist animal tutors using our FREE COURSE COUNSELLING SERVICE, they will be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.

Throughout a mammal's body, there are groups of specialised cells which form large glands. These glands are unlike all other glands because they have no duct and so pour their secretions directly and by diffusion into the blood vessels. Because of this unique feature they are called ductless, or endocrine, glands. The secretions of endocrine glands are called hormones and these belong to two main chemical groups, the steroids and the amino acid derivatives.

The secretions of the endocrine glands play an important part in regulating the functions of the body and some of them act directly on muscles and other glands in a way that is very similar to the actions of nerve impulses. Other hormones are concerned with the regulation of the body's metabolism and growth. Some endocrine glands are themselves stimulated by hormones from other glands, but are under the control of the nervous system and thus are able to respond very rapidly to changes.

Examples of endocrine glands include: the pituitary body; the thyroid; the parathyroids; the testes and ovaries; the pancreas; the thymus and the mucous membranes of the stomach and small intestines. These are discussed in more detail below. Again, do not try to learn all the organs and hormones off by heart. The following is included to give you background knowledge so that when you come across the hormone in later courses you will be familiar with its name.

The Pituitary Body
This is a fairly large gland situated in the base of the skull just below the hypothalamus. The hormones produced by the pituitary that are of interest to the animal manager are:

  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (T.S.H.) which influences the development of the thyroid gland. (The thyroid gland controls growth and performance).
  • Follicle stimulating hormone (F.S.H.) and the luteinising hormone (L.H.), both of which are involved in reproduction.
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (A.C.T.H.) which stimulates the activity of the adrenal body. (The adrenal body has an important role in regulating the heart beat, blood pressure and the level of glucose in the blood).
  • Lactogenic hormone (L.T.H.) which starts milk production in the pregnant female.
  • Somatrophic hormone (S.T.H.) which stimulates growth. In excess, it causes the formation of giants. It also stimulates the release of glucagon from the pancreas.
  • Oxytocin which is released when the mammary glands are stimulated by suckling and which causes the ejection of milk.
  • Antidiuretic hormone (A.D.H.) which increases the re-absorption of water and sodium back into the body and so decreases the amount of urine produced.

The Thyroid
This is a relatively large gland lying in the region of the throat. The main hormone produced is thyroxine whose main function is to promote growth in the young animal and to speed up most of the body functions in the adult. A deficiency of thyroxine causes a general slowing down and sluggishness in the animal while an excess has the opposite effect.

The Parathyroids
These are found next to the thyroid. Parathyroids produce a hormone which works with Vitamin D to maintain an adequate concentration of calcium in the blood. The effect of this hormone is thought to be one reason for "milk fever" in newly calved cows. Milk fever is caused when the demand for milk by the calf produces a lack of calcium in the mother's body.

The Thymus
This is found next to the heart. Its main function is to produce lymphocytes in the young animal. It also helps to develop immunological reactions which defend the animal against bacterial and viral infections. The thymus becomes less active as the animal grows.

The Adrenal Bodies
These are found near the kidneys. The important hormones produced are:

  • Adrenalin which increases the rate of the heart beat and output of the heart so that more blood is brought to the muscles. It increases the amount of glucose in the blood by increasing the rate of breakdown of glycogen in the liver. This is accompanied by increased oxygen consumption and an increase in the production of heat and energy. Adrenalin causes symptoms of anxiety in humans and animals.
  • Noradrenaline has very similar effects to adrenalin but increases the blood pressure by constricting the arteries through stimulation of the smooth muscle in their walls.
  • Corticosteroids which increase the level of glucose in the blood by increasing the rate of breakdown of protein and fats. They also induce male secondary sexual characteristics (such as more muscling, coarse hair etc.).

These hormones are steroids and are often taken by athletes (especially weight-lifters) to increase their muscle and so their strength. Women who take these steroids are quite likely to develop male characteristics such as hair on the face and chest!
The Pancreas
This organ is situated beside the liver. It produces two protein hormones - insulin and glucagon. Insulin lowers the level of glucose in the blood by increasing the rate at which it is converted to glycogen. Glucagon acts to opposite way by increasing the rate at which glycogen in the liver is converted into glucose. Between them, these two hormones control the amount of glucose in the blood.

The Testes
The testes produce a series of steroid hormones called androgens, the chief one being testosterone. Their functions are to:

  • Maintain the male ducts and glands in good condition.
  • Develop male characteristics (horn, hair, deep voice etc.).
  • Stimulate sperm production and to increase the rate of protein build-up when necessary.

The Ovaries
Ovarian hormones include oestrogen, progesterone and relaxin. The first two hormones are steroids and the last is a protein hormone.

Oestrogen prepares the reproductive tract for reproduction. This also produces many secondary sexual characteristics such as the enlargement of the mammary glands at puberty.

Progesterone also prepares the reproductive tract for pregnancy and activates the mammary glands to secrete milk. This hormone will suppress ovulation while the female is pregnant. Oestrogen and progesterone are released at different times in a cycle that is repeated until fertilisation takes place. After pregnancy and birth, the cycle sets up again.

Relaxin causes the cervix of the uterus to widen at birth and also stops uterine contractions.

The Pineal Body
This is found in the brain and produces a hormone called melatonin. This appears to be sensitive to light and is thought to control seasonal sexual activity in animals (e.g. coming into heat in spring because of the longer day light hours).

The Mucous Membrane of the Stomach
This membrane produces the hormone gastrin which affects the breakdown and digestion of foodstuffs.

The Mucous Membrane of the Small Intestine
This membrane produces the hormone secretin which travels to the pancreas via the bloodstream and stimulates the production of the pancreatic juices.



To enrol go to the panel towards the top right of this page.  If you have any QUESTIONS or need help in choosing the right course for you, please get in touch with our specialist animal tutors using our FREE COURSE COUNSELLING SERVICE, they will be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.


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Meet some of our academics

Alison Pearce (animal)B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Masters Degree in Ecotourism. P.G.Cert. Ed. (Science). Alison's first job was in 1982 as a stockwoman, working with pigs in Yorkshire. Within a few years she of that she was working for the University of Western Australia as a Research Technician and instructor with their school of Agricultural Science.In 1989 she moved to Melbourne University as Unit Manager and Instructor in Animal Husbandry. By the mid 1990's she moved back to England to work in Animal Care and Veterinary Nursing at Cambridgeshire College of Agriculture. Throughout her career, Alison has developed and delivered courses in veterinary nursing and animal sciences for vocational colleges and universities in Australia, New Zealand and Australia. She has built a high level of expertise and an outstanding international reputation as an expert in animal sciences.
Dr. Gareth PearceGraduated from the University of Nottingham in 1982 with a B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Between 82 and 85 worked as Research Assistant and Demonstator in Animal Science at the University of Leeds. Over more than 30 years he has furthered his studies, obtaining eight significant university qualifications including degrees in Veterinary Science, Wildlife Conservation and Animal Behaviour. Gareth has significant teaching experience around the world as a faculty member at eight different universities including Associate Professor at Murdoch University and Director of Studies in Veterinary Science at Cambridge University. He has over 100 prestigious research papers published, and enjoys an outstanding international reputation in the fields of animal and veterinary science.
Cheryl McLardyA scientist, teacher, writer and animal scientist, with more than 20 years experience including: Sports Horse Stud Groom, Stable Manager, Yard Manager, Equine industrial Training Manager, FE Distance Learning Manager. Cheryl has travelled widely, working in England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand; and is now based in Scotland. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons), Higher National Diploma in Horse Management, and a City and Guilds Teaching Certificate.
Marius Erasmus Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South Africa in wildlife management, dairy, beef and poultry farming.

Check out our eBooks

Horse CareThis book is an accumulation of information from biology, agricultural science and veterinary medicine. It looks to explore and explain the fundamentals of appropriate horse care aims and techniques. In doing so it will consider horsemanship as a combination of art and science.
PoultryPoultry are entertaining as pets and life sustaining as a commercial product! Whether you are seeking a book as a beginner poultry keeper or if you are embarking on a new career in poultry production or management, this book is for you. Easy to read, easy to understand and packed with easy to implement practical advice. Know how to care for the health and wellbeing of poultry and make production a commercially viable enterprise.
Animal HealthUnderstand animal health issues, diseases and how identify and manage illnesses and injuries. Animals can become sick for many different reasons -diseases caused by infections, injuries, poisoning, genetic disorders, poor nutrition and other things.
Caring for DogsA book for both students and dog owners. This book has been designed to complement our dog care and pet care courses; but also to provide a sound foundation for choosing the right breed, and caring for a dog whether as a pet, or a working animal. Contents cover Breeds, Creating a healthy home for dogs, legal issues, dog biology, recognising poor health, parasites, illnesses, nutrition, reproduction, dog psychology, behavioural development, training tips, behaviour problems, grooming, working in the dog industry, and more.