Montana Cattle Drive History: The Origin of Cows

Cows might be the most important part of cattle drive vacations. Where do cows come from? How were they domesticated? These are questions that set the stage for a cattle drive holiday in Montana. Knowing the history of cows helps you understand why the cattle drive tradition has remained strong to this day. Though much has changed since the beginning of cattle domestication, the unique relationship between humans and cows has stayed largely the same. When you book your cattle drive vacation, you are taking your own step into a long line of cowherds before you.

Today’s domesticated cows descended from stock which originated in Turkey and India. Milk from these cows was a basis for the lifestyles of many indigenous peoples who followed their herds from field to field. Tough leather and other products further increased the cow’s utility. No wonder they remain one of the most important domesticated animals in the world!

Cattle Drive Vacations History

The first cows were domesticated from the wild aurochs of southern Europe and southwestern Asia thousands of years ago. Exactly how this happened is an object of hot debate. Most archaeologists agree that wild aurochs were domesticated at least twice, leading to the two predominant types of domestic cattle we encounter today: humpless (or “taurine”) cattle and humped (or “indicine”) cattle. These separate domestication events occurred independently from one another, thousands of miles apart.

Bos taurus Domesticated in Turkey

The most diverse cattle region on earth is found near the Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey. Biologists who study domestication say genetic diversity is a key indicator of an original population of domesticated animals. This is because, as small groups of a domesticated animal (in this case, cattle) are moved away from the original population to start new herds, the resulting herds have less genetic material to draw on than the original population. This on top of extensive painting and pottery evidence suggests that Bos Taurus, the original humpless cattle, has been herded in the Taurus Mountain region since the dawn of human civilization.

Bos indicus Domesticated in Central Asia

Indicine cattle, Bos Indicus, was apparently domesticated twice; once in India and once in southern China. These events occurred some seven thousand years ago. The two independently-domesticated Bos Indicus lineages quickly came in contact with one another, giving rise to the hundreds of varieties of cattle prevalent in southern Asia.

Bos africanus domesticated in Africa?

Scientists disagree about a third cattle lineage originating in Africa. The evidence for a third domestication event comes from cattle remains found in Egypt and Algeria. These remains appear to be  just about as old as remains found in the Taurus Mountain region of Turkey. Some biologists take this as evidence that cows were domesticated in North Africa at the same time as they were domesticated in Turkey. Other scientists believe, based on genetic studies, that cows remains found in North Africa are the result of taurine cattle interbreeding with native aurochs.

Cattle Drives in Montana: A Historic Vacation Adventure

From their humble origins on the Asian steppe, cattle have emerged as one of humanity’s greatest assets. The versatile nature of cows means they can survive and thrive in a wide variety of conditions, just like human beings. Cows are raised on every continent except Antarctica, and only continue to grow more popular as a food source with the rise of global wealth.

Thousands of years ago, peoples in different places around the world discovered the utility of cows. It says something about the relationship between the two species that the relationship has lasted this long. Cows rely on humans for food and protection. Humans rely on cows for all the wonderful products cows provide. It all comes together in the cattle drive experience. If you have always wondered what it was like to live in a traditional lifestyle which has endured the ages, call Dryhead Ranch and schedule your cattle drive vacation today. Be a part of cattle drive history!

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