I know that all modern cattle, whether they are bos tauros or not, are descended from aurochs, and that aurochs were allowed to mix with early domesticated cattle several times. I want to know more about how Neolithic herdsmen cared for these early bos tauros and the characteristics of these early cattle.

Here are some questions you could answer. How large were they? How much milk did they produce? How aggressive were they? How did herdsmen prevent the cattle from escaping? Could nomadic societies keep these early cattle? Are there named varieties of these cattle?

I understand this is a complex topic, and a general answer is fine. I would really appreciate links to various resources on the subject as well.

What do you think?


1 Answer 1


From comments:

"@JAsia I am not really doing very serious research. I just want to know more about the characteristics of these animals to satisfy my own curiosity. I know some general things like that they were more wild than they are now, but it would be nice to know how they were kept and how much milk and meat they produced. Having the names of specific varieties of early bos tauros would be very useful in helping me learn more."

Unfortunately, I don't have direct information on Neolithic cattle (bos taurus) husbandry. The closest is sheep (Ovis arises) and goats (Capara hircus) - R. E. Gillis, J. S. Gaastra, M. V. Linden, and J.-D. Vigne, “A Species Specific Investigation Into Sheep and Goat Husbandry During the Early European Neolithic,” Environmental Archaeology, pp. 1–12, May 2019.

Nevertheless, I might be able to provide more context. Hence, this answer could be a bit more than what you've asked for, yet not fit your requirements. I hope it's at least useful.


Picture: Size comparison of Auroch bull and cow (top) and taurine cattle (bottom).

Source: Cattle Domestication: from Aurochs to Cow by Mario Melletti (co-editor of book recommended in last paragraph (below)).

1. Characteristics of Auroch

From Grzimek's animal life encyclopedia. Vol. 16, Mammals V., p.21 on:


Bos taurus:


Bos taurus Linnaeus, 1758, Poloniaelig (or Uppsala, Sweden, according to Thomas).


English: Wild cattle, wild ox; French: Aurochs; German: Ur.


Body length 118 in (300 cm); shoulder height 68.8–72.8 in (175–185 cm); tail length 55 in (140 cm); weight 1,763–2,204 lb (800–1,000 kg). Sexual dimorphism is moderate, with females 20% smaller than males; males had horns, up to 31.5 in (80 cm), that extended sideways and then turned upwards and forwards. Females had notably smaller horns. The legs were somewhat longer than in domestic cattle, and their forequarters were larger than their hindquarters. In northern Europe, the adult males were black-brown with a light streak along the back. This pelage contrasted with a whitish circle around the chin and muzzle. Aurochs were gray-brown in southern Europe and red-brown with a light saddle in Africa.


Groups consisting of adult females with their calves and subadults of both sexes, with adult males living in small all-male groups, except during the mating season.

In addition to Grzimek, the obvious additional sources on characteristics of Auroch is the currently ongoing rewilding Europe programmes: Tauros | Rewilding Europe. In addition, there is the Uruz Project (a splinter from Tauros), and the early 20th century Heck cattle.

Finally, to understand the process of domestication as it relates to cattle: "The real differences between aurochs and cattle" (2018),

2. How much meat and milk?

I have very sparse information on milk other than the link I provided earlier by FAO on crossbreeding bos indicus with bos taurus for milk. According Grzimek's vol 12, p. 175, a telling sentence (empahsis mine):

the present specialized daily milk production capacity of a Holstein Friesian averages 10.6 gal (40 l) of milk compared to the African N'Dama, produces 1.1 gal (4 l).

The implication here is that African N'Dama cattle being bred and managed according to older foraging and livestock management methods result in a mere 10% milk production of European cattle.

As for meat consumption and "how were they kept?", a recent article from The Royal Society, "The evolution of dual meat and milk cattle husbandry in Linearbandkeramik societies" (2017), states:

Maintaining slow-growing/maturing animals such as cattle would have represented an ‘investment’. This investment had major implications on the development of the symbolic role of cattle and social inequality. Meat in a number of present-day societies is reserved for special occasions and ritual feasting events. Whereas dairy husbandry in comparison would have less impact on small herds and may have been more suitable for the establishment of LBK cattle herds.

In other words, meat consumption from early bos taurus was highly restricted to ritualised events and feasting, not daily consumption. This article has more information on LBK cattle husbandry.

3. Early Bos Taurus

Actually, the real issue is "specific varieties of early bos tauros". This is the trickiest part of the question because we need to ask again: what counts as early?

Early bos tauros could be any cattle from:

  • the earliest domestication event, around 8500 BCE at 2 locations -- Çayönü Tepesi and Dja'de el Mughara, of about 80 founding female aurochs,
  • to cattle of LBK culture from Central Europe into West, North and East Europe c. 5500 to 4500 BCE,
  • to a question of what is the behaviour of "wild cattle" today (the tribe "Bovini" -- largest members of the subfamily Bovinae and including, but not limited to, bos taurus / taurine cattle).

4. Behavioural Ecology

In biological & life sciences, the sub-discipline of "Ecology, Behavior and Evolution" (EBE) is the study of individuals, species, and communities (animals and humans) in a given environment.

Based on your question, and comment, I believe you are interested in behavioural ecology of early bos taurus (taurine cattle), 8,500 BCE Near East to their 5500 BCE migration into Europe (LBK). This is still a broad area and timeline.

Since I don't really have an answer, let me conclude by recommending the following:

  1. Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour of Wild Cattle (Cambridge, 2014), on tribe "Bovini";
  2. Linearbandkeramik Culture (often referred to as "first farmers of Europe"). In addition to Wikipedia on LBK, a general search for "LBK cattle management" should provide suitable results for follow-up; and
  3. Look at the proposed founding breeds of the Tauros (Tauros Programme, mentioned above). Here's a useful guide of the breeds:

Tauros 2.0 - founding breeds

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