Early History

The humpless cattle was most likely domesticated somewhere in the Fertile Crescent(modern day Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel) about 10,500 years ago. Around 5000 BC, people in Central Asia began to tame cattle. First using cattle for their meat and leather hide, people began to milk cows and eventually make yogurt and cheese.

Cattle Used In Work

About 4000 BC, oxen were used to pull plows in fields and wagons. In India, cows and water buffalo were used for plowing. In Southern China, water buffalo were used for plowing, too. Northern China and West Asia used oxen for plowing. When Europeans came to the Americas around 1600, they introduced cattle for plowing fields in the New World. By the early 20th century, tractors and trucks started to replace oxen for heavy work in North America and Europe. But still today in many parts of the world, cattle are still used for farming.


In India, Hindus believe cows are sacred and refrain from eating them. Cattle were very important to many groups in Africa such as the KhoiKhoi and the San in South Africa. Instead of using cattle for farming, these groups in Africa ate beef and drank milk from the cattle. Before colonization of the New World, Native Americans hunted and ate wild cattle called buffalo or bison since they did not domesticate cattle.

ancient wall carvings of cows
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