Domesticated cattle in central and northern Europe are more closely related on the father’s side with the primordial oxen that once populated Europe than with the cattle that the first farmers brought with them up through Europe during the Great Migration. This provides a new picture of the transition from a hunting and gathering society to agrarian culture. The findings are being presented in an article by research from Uppsala University in Sweden in the latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.
The primeval ox, extinct since 1627, was once spread over Europe and in parts of Asia and Africa. Today’s domesticated cattle descend from this ancient ox, which was domesticated some 10,000 years ago. As with many other domesticated animals, it has been assumed that this took place in a limited number of geographic regions, in the case of cattle, in the fertile river valleys of Mesopotamia, on the one hand, and, on the other, in India.
“When it comes to cattle in Europe, it has been assumed that they descend from already domesticated animals that the first farmers brought with them in the Great Migration up through Europe several thousand years ago,” says Hans Ellegren, professor of evolutionary biology at Uppsala University in Sweden, who carried out the study together with his colleagues Anders Götherstam and Cecilia Anderung.
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