Food Snark

The Domestication of Cattle

April 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

This article was written by Samuel Phineas Upham

It’s likely that the first cows to be domesticated looked very different from the cows we have today. Food historians generally agree that the ancient cow was a direct descendent of the prehistoric Auroch, which was a bit like an ox. The animal was common to the grasslands of Eurasia, which also gave humans the illustrious horse.

Though it’s hard to tell for sure, food historians speculate that cattle domestication most likely occurred when cows wandered onto human lands. Early farmers growing large fields of grain would have had something of a pest control problem from the cows that wandered onto their lands to graze. It’s hard to pinpoint when domestication began, but there is evidence that places cattle in domestication near 3,000 BC from Mesopotamia to Egypt.

When humans first began to breed cattle, the end result was much smaller than the aurochs that roamed the land. Humans most likely captured some aurochs in a pen, and the males and females mated during that time. There would have been ample reason to keep them, as they would have made an excellent food source and their dung could be used as a fertilizer for growing crops. The species that resulted from the captive breeding was much more docile than the wild auroch, and they were often kept as objects of sacrificial significance.

Cows were never indigenous to America. It was the English who brought cattle to the New World when they settled in the 1700s. Of course the English kept cows for milk. It was the Spaniards who taught Americans how to raise and slaughter cows for the consumption of their meat.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Samuel Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Samuel Phineas Upham on his Twitter page.

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