The earliest domestication of cattle may have taken place in northeast China, according to a joint study by Chinese and foreign scientists.
Cattle remains dating back to some 10,660 years ago, from near Harbin in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, show morphological and genetic traces of domestication, according to Zhang Hucai, a professor at Yunnan Normal University in the school of tourism and geographical sciences. His research team have been studying the history of the domestication of cattle since 2007.
DNA tests showed a sample to be a transitional type between primeval cattle and modern domestic cattle. The results indicate that northeast China may have been an important location in terms of the origins of animal domestication and cattle management, he added.
It is generally believed that domestication of cattle took place in western Asia about 10,500 years ago, giving rise to modern taurine cattle and in southern Asia about 2,000 years later, giving rise to zebu cattle.
The study was conducted between scientists from Peking University, Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, Heilongjiang Provincial Museum, the University of York, Trinity College of Dublin and the Natural History Museum of Copenhagen.
First attempts to manage cattle in northern China seem to predate the domestic cattle which gave rise to the current stock by several thousand years. The paper describes evidence that Holocene cattle were possibly first domesticated in NE China.
The paper was published Friday on the Nature Communications, an online-only journal for research in biological, physical and chemical sciences.