Cows have been farmed by humans for thousands of years. They provide meat for us to eat and milk that we can drink. We also use cow hide (skin and fur) to make clothes, shoes and shelters, and we use their dung (poo) as manure to make soil better for growing crops!
But which came first – the cow or the farm?
Cows are properly known as ‘cattle’. The word ‘cow’ actually refers to an adult female that has had a baby (calf) and a ‘bull’ is an adult male. Those farmed for meat are beef cattle; and those farmed for milk are dairy cattle.
By testing DNA from ancient bones, scientists believe that cattle were bred from a species of wild ox about 10,500 years ago. The scientific name for the wild ox is Bos primigenius and the modern, domesticated cattle is Bos taurus. The similarity in their names is a way of describing that the two species are closely related.
There are now more than 800 different breeds of cattle with different characteristics. For example, some are really good at producing lots of milk, some are very muscular (or meaty) and some are big and hairy!
So, what about farming? Well, archaeologists have found evidence to show that humans began farming sometime between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago. This means that we invented farming before we decided to farm cows. So, cows did not exist before farming!