Livestock contributes significantly to peoples’ livelihoods in developing countries. Yet, most studies focus on dairy cattle, overlooking the fact that many smallholder farmers in mixed-cropping systems prefer to keep goats, sheep, pigs or poultry rather than cattle. For this paper we applied a multivariate probit model to a unique dataset from a national, representative, agricultural survey in Burundi, to estimate the determinants of livestock keeping. We found that wealthier households keep more livestock, but that population density and access to markets are also key determinants. Moreover, in densely populated regions, even the wealthiest households prefer smaller animals to cattle, as the pressure on land is high and access to pastures is limited. This has important policy implications as it raises questions as to whether the focus on dairy cattle, which has been adopted in most NGO and governmental development programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, is justified.