Rinderpest is a morbillivirus that can kill up to 95% of a herd of cattle. It is related to a disease called "canine distemper."

Under a microscope, it looks like a suburb—with some lakes and a park or stadium in the upper right quadrant:

  • From Wikimedia Commons, Copyright held by Dr. Rajnish Kaushik

Rinderpest was researched as a potential biological weapon for the U.S. military. But this coming Tuesday, the United Nations will hold a ceremony in Rome to declare rinderpest the second-ever disease totally eradicated from the planet. (The first was smallpox.)

Thanks to Slog tipper Kevin.


... rinderpest is hardly irrelevant to humans. It has been blamed for speeding the fall of the Roman Empire, aiding the conquests of Genghis Khan and hindering those of Charlemagne, opening the way for the French and Russian Revolutions, and subjugating East Africa to colonization.

Any society dependent on cattle — or relatives like African zebu, Asian water buffaloes or Himalayan yaks — was vulnerable.

Anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard thought a rinderpest epidemic in southern Sudan in the 1930s changed the social structure—including commerce and marriage practices—of the pastoral Nuer people.

According to the OED, the etymology of rinderpest comes from Germany, 1796: rinder- comes from rother, which was a word for horned bovines (oxen, etc.) and pest from the Latin pestis, "deadly contagious disease."

But since rinderpest is supposedly eradicated, this knowledge is double-plus useless to you now.