Researchers have found evidence cattle farming sprang up in China at the same time cattle domestication took place in the Near East -- around 10,000 years ago.
A study led by the University of York in England and China's Yunnan Normal University found morphological and genetic evidence in current cattle that management of cattle populations in China dates back at least that far, a release said Friday.
The domestication of cattle is a key achievement in human history, and the findings in China indicate humans may have started domesticating cows in more regions around the world than was previously believed, the researchers said.
A lower jaw of an ancient cattle specimen discovered during an excavation in northeast China, carbon dated to be 10,660 years old, displayed a unique pattern of wear on the molars best explained as the results of long-term human management of the animal, they said.
DNA taken from the jaw revealed the animal did not belong to the same cattle lineages that were domesticated in the Near East and South Asia, York doctoral student Johanna Paijmans said.
"The specimen is unique and suggests that, similar to other species such as pigs and dogs, cattle domestication was probably also a complex process rather than a sudden event," she said.
"This is a really exciting example of the power of multi-disciplinary research; the wear pattern on the lower jaw itself is already really interesting, and together with the carbon dating and ancient DNA we have been able to place it in an even bigger picture of early cattle management."