Size Reduction in Early European Domestic Cattle Relates to Intensification of Neolithic Herding Strategies.

21 Nov 2017

Our analysis of over 28,000 osteometric measurements from fossil remains dating between c. 5600 and 1500 BCE reveals a substantial reduction in body mass of 33% in Neolithic central European domestic cattle. We investigate various plausible explanations for this phenotypic adaptation, dismissing climatic change as a causal factor, and further rejecting the hypothesis that it was caused by an increase in the proportion of smaller adult females in the population. Instead we find some support for the hypothesis that the size decrease was driven by a demographic shift towards smaller newborns from sub-adult breeding as a result of intensifying meat production strategies during the Neolithic.