Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Brachyceros and The Brachycephlics

They say 'people look like their dogs'.  Early French archaeologists extended that to Beaker cattle, in which the racially distinct short horn (also sub-brachycephlos) appears to spread through Europe with the Bell Beakers.

Short Horn cattle (Bos taurus longifrons*) possibly appears first in Swiss Late Neolithic pile dwelling communities several hundred years before the Beaker Age.**  However, it is with the Beakers that the brachyceros (so named in continental Europe) spreads and emerges as the backbone of the Beaker economy, almost by the square inch.

Fig 14.  Popular Anglo-American Beef - Hereford, Angus and Ayeshire
The short horn forms a racial category within the bos taurus primagenius subspecies.  The longifrons/brachyceros classification has been continuously upheld since its first categorization by Ludwig Rütimeyer.  Most debate since then has centered on how it is related to other taurine cattle and where and how it became refined from taurus primagenius.

The short horn is agreed to have been primarily a dairy cow, although intermixture has produced a large variety of modern beef cattle, such as the ones above.  One of the complicating aspects of its history is that its appearance in the historical record is near simultaneous in Europe, Egypt and the Near East.

Beakers were über dairyists, to the point that it was a defining feature of their culture.  This is visible in the pottery record and inferred from the archaeo-genetic record.  Their legacy defines the genetics of modern Europe as well as its regional hyper-diversity of diary products.

Before the Beakers, almost zero people in North or West Europe were lactase persisent.  After the Beakers (the full trajectory is not yet clear), basically a situation exists in which most modern people are lactase persisent.  If you remove immigrant populations from the equation, the trait essentially defines the genetic situation of native peoples.  (academia continues to flounder with evolutionary explanations for the sudden rise of European LP, which is virtually non-existent before the copper age, which basically means - get a bigger shoe horn.  See their LBK explanation [here])

A number of evolutionary zoologists have viewed the introduction of short horns into Europe as coming from North Africa via Southern Iberia around 3,000 B.C.  (Grigg, 1972)  The European short horns have their immediate relatives in the Libyan Shorthorn, Brown Atlas, Moroccan Blonde and n'damas.  Further south, most short horns have been crossed with Zebu (indicus) for heat tolerance (as is common in the Southern United States with Angus (second pane) with Brahman (indicus) to create the hearty Brangus, etc). 

More to come on cow teats and wagons as I clean out the back pages!

BTW, decent overview on cattle world:
On the History of Cattle Genetic Resources, Diversity 2014, 6(4), 705-750; Felius et al,   [Link]

*     The history of the latin of this animal is complicated.  Longifrons (long-face), brachycephlos (subtype shorthead), and both conventions are various categorized under primagenius and taurus.  Should not be confused with bos brachycephlos, which is a minature, cow-like buffalo of Northern Nubia.  Longifrons is also known as Celtic cattle.
**   The first short horns were excavated in 1844 from Late Neolithic Pile Dwelling communities of Lake Constance. 


  1. Cool - cattle seem like a very plausible source of clues.

  2. The scenario of LP in Bell Beaker is a bit complex. The initial Bell Beaker in Southern Iberia were probably not LP. That trait probably emerged in NW Continental Europe someplace, was assimilated in the Bell Beaker, and then spread by them on a return back migration to the South.

    1. This may also help explain the odd fine R1b phylogenies at odds with Bell Beaker expansion. Because the main demic effects may not have really taken off until Bell Beaker assimilated LP.

  3. The 'European' lactase persistence allele 13910T is also found in Berbers, Fulani and Bulala in Africa plus West Asia and Pakistan.
    LP allele 13913C is found in Italy, and also Cameroon, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia Bedouin.
    Y-DNA R1b-V88 is found in Sardinia, Corsica, Southern France, and also North Africa, Egypt, Sudan, Cameroon, Palestine, Jordan, Iran.
    There are numerous other genetic markers which in my opinion indicate prehistoric gene flow out of a green Sahara, including directly across the Mediterranean into Europe.
    I am also increasingly of the opinion that mtDNA haplogroup H spread from North Africa into Iberia and not vice-versa. Incidentally, the Revised Cambridge Reference Sequence (rCRS) was even found in a sample from three ethnic groups in Uganda which is surprising.

  4. I know I'm late but I must say that African taurines form a distinctive branch which is different from that of European taurines:

    1. Africanus would be the earliest native one.
      Bos Tarus Indicus and longifrons (bracyceros) were introduced sometime during or before the Old Kingdom.

      Longifrons wasn't native. It has been theorized to have been developed in the highland of the Indus.

    2. Africanus would be the earliest native one.
      Bos Tarus Indicus and longifrons (bracyceros) were introduced sometime during or before the Old Kingdom.

      Longifrons wasn't native. It has been theorized to have been developed in the highland of the Indus.

    3. The African taurine breeds, which afaik include longhorns, are clearly derived from the same Anatolian root as European cattle, then they diverge, a similar case with the Mongolian branch of taurines. They have nothing to to do with African (hybrid) zebuines (which is what you are talking about: Indian cattle=zebuine, Bos indicus).

      They may be short- or medium- horned like Oulmes Zaer, Borgu or Oulme breeds or extremely long and thick horned like the Kuri cattle. This is not legend but very real: all the breeds I mentioned lack in general zebuine admixture. They are often not too different in looks from European cattle but genetically they belong to a radically different branch within taurines.

      You're arguing on morphology and I'm arguing on genetics and genetics always trumps morphology.

      If you're interested in the rather insignificant (and IMO unadaptive) short-horn trait, you may be rather interested in European specific cattle genetics, for example:

      Something apparent is that there are three main genetic clusters in the European (French+Northerner) cattle:

      1. A SW European cluster (color-coded: orange), which permeates to North Africa, Italy and Britain, and is best represented by breeds like Blond d'Aquitaine, Saler, Brown Swiss
      2. A secondary cluster (yellow at K=5, pink at K=6) whose best representative is Frisian-Holstein cattle (the typical dairy cow) but also includes most of NW European cattle ancestry, including that of Angus
      3. Jersey (which is the oldest regulated breed, hence very inbred)

      It has nothing to do with short or long horns: all branches (save Jersey) include breeds with short, no and rather long horns. All them had probably middle to large sized horns originally, because that was an adaptive trait before humans took total care of them with long-term stable residence, etc. (how can cows defend themselves against wolves without horns?)

      Normal cows (what in my environment always means horns, the first cows without horns I ever saw were in the USA - and I was flippant) are truly dangerous beasts depending on their character: horses run but cows face you. I don't think there are cows without horns in the Iberian peninsula at all (except modern imports). It is also a region (including Southern France) where bull and bullock related dangerous activities have always been popular, not just the macabre bullfights but the much more harmless "vaquillas" (dancing with bullocks, somewhat similar to "recortadores" but for a wider young spontaneous participation). We just grow imagining cows and horns are the same thing, what makes cattle much more interesting I must say. There's never been shorthorns over here: it's a continental thing of people who don't dance with the bulls.

    4. It's not the horns that make a short horn a longifrons (long face) aka brachyceros (shorthorn). It's the morphology and behavior which most zoologists put in its own subbranch. I believe that paper shows them clustering as a group.

      Most taurine have introgression from local aurochs, so frontilis has a large ancestry native to the North Sea. Same with Africanus.

      Also, neolithic Europeans already polled longhorns but not all. The advantage of shorthorns is they can be kept on short pasture because they are small and milk heavy

    5. I don't understand enough about breeds to know what is called a longhorn and shorthorn in Anglosaxon terminology but I do understand that the issue of aurochs introgression and its extent is still under debate (early data suggested only in Italy, more recent data suggests it's more widespread) and that it does not matter much because aurochs was just another name for the wild bos taurus, a larger variant than the Anatolian ancestor of the domestic cow but not significantly different otherwise.

      When I read about cattle genetics I don't read anything about longifrons or brachyceros, I would imagine because such categories are not very common and/or have no relationship with actual genetic structure of cows, much as brachicephalic and dolicocephalic anthropometric categories bear no or very tangential relation with actual genetics of humans. What I read instead is that African and European cows (taurine both) branched apart early on in the Neolithic and other than in Morocco they did not meet again.

      Also when I read about cattle usage in antiquity and the Middle Ages I don't read often about milking but about oxen (and cows as well) being used for traction and also for meat. I don't know when and how dairy-specialist cows were selected: it's an intriguing matter but you're only providing generalist claims on the matter without any evidence I can see to back them (and seemingly with no relation with genetic data). Even in places like India or Ancient Egypt, where cows are/were held sacred and hence not butchered, they do have a role in the provision of dairies (butter particularly) but their main role was always pulling the plough and providing manure, which has many uses (fertilizer, "green" combustible and isolating cement-like material for construction).

    6. I know bos Taurus primagenus and indicus form two separate populations. The genetic difference between Taurus prim. and longifrons is much less clear.
      A good example of the differences can be found in Old Kingdom murals. One example is in this paper, I believe.

    7. Sure, Indicine (zebu) and Taurine (auroch and in general "western" cows, including the core of African breeds) are clearly different subspecies (or some would say even species). But my point is that within the taurine branch, (Bos taurus primigenius, Bos primigenius taurus or Bos primigenius primigenius), the European and African branches are starkly different (except for admixture in NW Africa). There's nothing of the African branch of taurine in Europe, although there is in South America, I believe.

      I am not still sure of what is "longifrons".

    8. The Latin names are confusing because of the history of renaming. Bos Taurus Longifrons, Bos Taurus Brachyceros, and Bos Brachyceros are all the same thing as a race within Taurus, but an early one. Some call Bos Brachycephlos as a sub-race of Brachyceros but isn't universally accepted.

      Bos Tarus Brachyceros is different from another Bos Brachyceros, which is a miniature Nubian water buffalo.

      Another cow called 'Shorthorn' is confusingly not a shorthorn.

      Probably the best racial examples are the bug eyed Jersey Cows. Genetically, there is also a rare short horn of Basque country that is white that may be a more ancient (less improved) example.

      From there Moroccan blondes, N'damas and some of the other North African varieties probably are closer to the ancestral state. N'damas is probably the breed furthest south that is relatively unmixed. I'm guessing that's Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali ballpark. Of course many other varieties are in these areas

    9. As a side note, both longifrons and brachyceros are used. Brachyceros is still used in Europe. I use both

    10. Jersey is the first regulated breed and forms a distinct cluster against any other European breed.

      Regardless of nomenclature (I can't find any reference for yours, honestly), I strongly suggest that you take a read to the links I posted above, particularly the first one although the second one also has some interest.