Did cows exist before farming?


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!

Just for fun, here are some interesting facts about cattle. And this web-page tells you how to identify different types of cattle.

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!

7 thoughts on “Did cows exist before farming?

  1. stickymangorice November 24, 2016 / 11:41 am

    This is an awesome idea for a blog! I don’t even have kids, but these questions got me clicking to find out more. Looking forward to reading others…


    • kturton December 1, 2016 / 7:39 pm

      Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. It’s a lot of fun to write and research the answers to the questions 🙂


  2. closetchocolate December 2, 2016 / 9:14 pm

    Neanderthals and archaic Homo Sapiens began domesticating plants and animals through pastoralism and cultivation around 35,000 years ago, suggesting “farming” was initiated sooner. However, this is mainly to establish homesteads and as a means to control resources- I suppose it is more realistic to consider actual mass farming (producing and distributing) to have begun around 15,000 years ago as you have stated. It is so interesting to learn about our ancestors and other roaming hominids – great post, I would never have thought to ask which came first!


    • kturton December 9, 2016 / 9:14 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post. It was a tricky one to research – especially with trying to figure out when humans started farming. Thank you for sharing the information about domestication of plants. I find this topic fascinating but, as you say, had never thought about which came first before!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s