Animal breeding is simply the vocation of selectively mating carefully chosen specimens of any species to produce or enhance specific desirable qualities and characteristics, thereby improving both the stock and the species in general.
Animal breeding, for anyone choosing to pursue it, can be anything from a serious hobby, indulged in for personal reasons of achieving better quality in one's pets; a part-time business of breeding and selling pets; to a serious and sophisticated profession and livelihood. The demand for a diverse range and quality of livestock and pets is on the increase, and has, in fact, risen rapidly during the early years of the twenty-first century, especially in the developing world. This has caused the breeding of farm and domestic pet animals to become an increasingly important sector.
At its best, animal breeding is a perfect blend of science and art. Any truly skilled breeder has to have a good knowledge base of animal genetics and health issues, as well as the purpose for which the animal is likely to be used. At its worst, however, animal breeding can often be a slip-shod sort of enterprise whose major concern is pure profit, and little attention is paid to the health and welfare of the animals. This sort of breeding is most common in pet breeding often done by random and ignorant breeders and conducted on a small scale. There are also mass breeding programs like puppy mills carried out by larger businesses where the animals are treated as little more than puppy-making machines.
There are, however, many excellent small-scale breeding programs run from peoples' homes as well as profitable large-scale operations that are run by knowledgeable staff with good veterinary care for the animals.
During much of the twentieth century, animal breeding activity in the western nations had disregarded the rest of the animal genetic resources in other countries. However, as demand has increased, the use and development of a range of local breeds, adapted to the specific climate, has increased. In this changed world scenario of the intensification demand and a much larger and progressively more affluent human population in these nations, animal agriculture has intensified in most available production environments, to meet these newly emerging twenty-first-century demands.
The essential need of today is to realize the possibility of sustainable animal breeding using locally adapted genetic resources and animal species, which are in use by the lower-input production environments of the developing world.