The Adams and Eves…of Domesticated Cows?

The history of cattle appears to be reaching a turning point. Did you know that quite possibly every single cow in the world (1.3 billion!) is related to a small group of just 80 domesticated cows who lived about 10,500 years ago?

History of Cattle – The Adams and Eves of Domesticated Cows?

If not for ancient Turkish farmers, cows might’ve never achieved the population levels they enjoy today. Here’s more on the strange history of cattle from Oxford Journals:

“The management and subsequent domestication of these few wild cattle over some centuries could have been carried out by a small sized human group, like in a couple of small Neolithic villages. Importantly, the two sites showing the earliest signs of wild aurochs domestication – Dja´de and Çayönü – are less than 250 km apart. The closeness of these sites permits local exchange of wild / early domestic cattle management skills, and possibly the cattle themselves, and adds support to the hypothesis of a restricted origin of taurine cattle in the Levant.” ~ Ruth Bollongino, Joachim Burger, Adam Powell, Marjan Mashkour, Jean-Denis Vigne, Mark G. Thomas

And here’s even more on the history of cattle from io9:

They discovered that the differences between these ancient DNA sequences and those of modern cattle were so minute that the only way to explain them would be if the original cattle population was extremely small, with about 80 cattle the most likely number. As the researchers explain in Molecular Biology and Evolution, since the domestication process was spread out over a thousand or so years, that’s the equivalent of only adding two new cattle each generation.

That’s a recipe for astoundingly low genetic diversity — and yet it seems that pretty much every living cow can claim ancestry to those eighty cows and no others. It’s a testament to how skilled ancient humans must have been at breeding cattle that the population survived and thrived the way it did, as these cows were effectively domesticated into an instant population bottleneck…

(See io9 for more on the history of cattle)

Leave a Comment