How to find Reconstructions and other information about ancient domesticated animals?

Aug 2016
977
US&A
I have seen reconstructions of ancient humans, extinct wild animals, and dinosaurs, but even finding a picture of a Hamitic Longhorn (Ancient Egyptian cattle) is seemingly beyond me.

I want to know what ancient breeds of domesticated animals looked like and how they interacted with humans. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be many resources out there about this.

What are some good resources for finding information on humanity's earliest livestock?
 
Feb 2019
823
Pennsylvania, US
While cows aren't really my area of expertise - and I don't have any single authority to direct you to... (that's a rather disappointing build-up, isn't it? :lol:) I think you should take a look at the Aurochs... it's one of two wild bovines and is the one believes to be used to develop modern cows. Though images of modern Sanga cattle may be similar to those from Ancient Egypt, they were influenced by the Zebu (cows with a large hump over their shoulders, lots of extra skin around the neck, which doesn't appear to be present in Ancient Egyptian depictions of oxen and cows). Some people have tried to "recreate" living Aurochs... generally speaking, people are looking at some of these ancestors of modern cattle as problems arise with modern cows (i.e. A2 milk production, disease and parasite resilience, zoonotic transmissions, BLV milk potentially linked to human cancers, etc).

I raise a breed of sheep that is called "primitive", though they still require shearing and do not have an undercoat, they yet retain may of their "wild traits". The most unimproved breeds of sheep shed "hair", as wool was a selectively bred adaptation to benefit humans. Sheep were domesticated before cattle, possibly because they could adapt to a nomadic society... to see what the earliest domesticate sheep would have looked like, you can look at the Mouflon. Some of the earliest instances of "keeping" sheep are from Iran, where wild sheep were caught and contained within a village. They could analyze the discarded bones from the village and see that slowly the number of wild game animal remains decreased as the instances of sheep remains - primarily males, which is a pretty standard practice for farming today - steadily increased.

From a generic standpoint, the first basis of selection would be to eliminate wild behaviors - as much as their appearance has been altered, the largest genetic shift has to be in their behaviors.... undermining many of their instinctual survival "programming" in order to live alongside predators... us.

Just looking at the differences between primitive breed traits in comparison to modern breeds, primitive animals are able to eat a wider variety of foods and derive nutritional value (courser feeds, stemmy forages, even barking trees for nutrients); they require less feed ("thrifty" with feed); they are more resistant to internal parasites; they behave in a skittish sort of manner and are more hesitant about approaching humans (which is a contrast to the rather friendly, "stupid" domesticated breeds); the herd will split up when being chased and usually aren't effectively herded by dogs; they require little to no interventions during lambing. They almost seem to fare worse from too much intensive medical intervention... dying from shock much like a wild animal being handled by humans might. This collection of traits mean that this breed could survive in an untended flock... they could be wild, save for problems arising from wool growth.

Primitive cows, like the Hamitic Longhorn, would have these same characteristics... easier births (modern dairy cows are notorious for their terrible deliveries, mainly because of how we've altered their bodies), more resistant to parasites, more wary of predators / humans (still domesticated, but less docile), and able to derive more benefit from poorer feeds.

A major problem that is looming of the horizon for modern livestock is parasite resistance to anthelmintics... meaning that internal parasites cannot be killed and the animals are too improved to be resistant or resilient to them... :confused: