The conceptual structure of the field of Animal Science (AS) research is examined by means of a longitudinal science mapping analysis. The whole of the AS research field is analysed, revealing its conceptual evolution. To this end, an automatic approach to detecting and visualizing hidden themes or topics and their evolution across a consecutive span of years was applied to AS publications of the JCR category ‘Agriculture, Dairy & Animal Science’ during the period 1945–2011. This automatic approach was based on a coword analysis and combines performance analysis and science mapping. To observe the conceptual evolution of AS, six consecutive periods were defined: 1945–1969, 1970–1979, 1980–1989, 1990–1999, 2000–2005 and 2006–2011. Research in AS was identified as having focused on ten main thematic areas: ANIMAL-FEEDING, SMALL-RUMINANTS, ANIMAL-REPRODUCTION, DAIRY-PRODUCTION, MEAT-QUALITY, SWINE-PRODUCTION, GENETICS-AND-ANIMAL-BREEDING, POULTRY, ANIMAL-WELFARE and GROWTH-FACTORS-AND-FATTY-ACIDS. The results show how genomic studies gain in weight and integrate with other thematic areas. The whole of AS research has become oriented towards an overall framework in which animal welfare, sustainable management and human health play a major role. All this would affect the future structure and management of livestock farming.