Saturday, March 5, 2016

Buša Cattle, Cetina Culture and the Balkans

This is post that delves a little deeper in the development and geographic spread of the longifrons.    Reading the literature, you'll quickly find that it is necessary to constantly define terms within context of the person who wrote it.  Not everyone operates from the same sheet of music.

To simply things for the sake of conversation, longifrons belongs to the Taurus species.  It is either 1) the absolute oldest Taurus and all other Neolithic Taurine have Auroch admixture 2)  It is a more refined, younger Taurus 3)  It is a refined Taurus with something Indicus like, but not Indicus; and humpless.  4) it is no longer believed to have been a separate domestication event.  With that...

Busha Cow (Gatačko?), Stara Mountain, Serbia (photo by dobrogled)
Buša cattle (Illyrian Cattle) are an endangered domesticate of the Balkans whose ancestral racial type first appeared in this region at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age.  (Eric Issac, 1962) They actually form a dwarf Illyrian group with branches that can be found across the Balkans and Greece in low numbers.  (There is a paper that claims the presence of longifrons in Vinca Culture, the evidence of which is very thin IMO)

Busha belong to a race typified by Jerseys, Ayshire, Red Devons, Menorquinas, etc, although admixture with larger cattle has greyed the distinctions.  Busha are rather small, even for longifrons, and most seem to have a white nose and belly.  Some Busha will exhibt a very rare tiger strip pattern while others may be solid grey or black.  The Dinaric cattle [cymbal shot] are vigorous and do well in rocky landscapes, but they also have been out-performed by improved cattle and caught in the middle of destructive people wars.

In the last few decades there were as few as 20 in Croatia that were unmixed and maybe a total of a 100 in the entire region that were considered standard types.  Already under extreme pressure, one of the last unmixed herds was completely destroyed in Sarajevo during the war leaving an extremely tiny population to preserve.  There is now a fairly robust conservation effort in all of the Balkan countries to reclaim the Busha heritage (UN Croatia, Macedonia, SaveFoundation, Albania) (See also Prespa Cattle)

The very first documented longifrons in the British Isles is found in a Bell Beaker settlement (Trow-Smith, 2005) (Dale Serjeantson, 2011) and this, for all intents and purposes IMO, is almost always the case throughout Europe and its archipelagos [post on Balearic Islands] While it may not be the only cow utilized by the Beaker Culture, a very fair case can be made that it's expansion was driven by the Beaker culture (I'll develop this in a later post).  The earliest longifrons are considered to have a solid reddish brown coat (as observed in bogs for example), smaller body, short legs, a long forhead with a short and narrow face, short & forward facing-small-diameter polls that are partly cleaved, bug eyes, considerable sexual dimorphism, and to use the terminology of the Blues Brothers, their lips and asses are black.  

 Croatian Busa Cattle (via Fraxinus)
From the Illyrian group another dwarfed subset can be found in Greece, also endangered.  It appears longifrons followed settlers to the Peloponnese, Cyclades and Crete by way of communication or expansion of the Cetina sphere of influence (a baby Beaker) where it appears as a distinct cattle race, especially among the Achaeans.  Another longifrons appears out of thin air with the formation of the IE Hittites, but it is more likely the modern Turkish Black Anatolian came via Celtic migration in later history.  The Damascus group is a little more difficult to trace, but it could be residual of the Halaf or Hassuna Cultures, both at times implicated for its spread.

Domesticated animals are absolutely one of the strongest artifacts of prehistory.  It's important to remember the most valuable chattels of prehistory were not materials, they were beasts.  Until recently Europeans literally lived with the animals that defined their wealth, English "chattel", "capital", "fee", "fief".  The word 'fidelity' implies fealty to one's lord secured through fee (cattle).

People also do not necessarily migrate and adopt new animals in route, which is a common and utterly retarded belief (no pun intended).  For example, the Moors brought African cattle to an Iberia that already had cattle, while during the Reconquista, the Spaniards attempted to completely eradicate the infidel animals of the Moors and there is a large shift again (however complete) toward European breeds.  If people migrate, animals migrate.  I'll go to battle on this point.

A Gatačko govedo, mixed Buša in the mountains (Planinac)
I would like to further delve into the armshutzeplaatzen-equipped Cetina Culture and some of the writings of Volker Heyd concerning the Beaker impact on the Northwestern Balkans in the mid-3rd millennium.  Aside from lithics, decoration, adventurism and people genetics, I think a strong co-pilot for this Cetina influence is in fact the Brachykeratiki.  It's also a very portable cow, maybe not backpack size, but a weened calf (230kg or 500lbs) can sit quietly in a boat full of people paddling between islands.  It may be why Greek longifrons are even smaller from its parent, sounds goofy, but Greece has always been a maritime culture.

Busa in Lika, Croatia.  Notice tiger strip in middle cow

As far as I'm concerned, the longifrons is very likely 'the Beaker cow' and that case might easily be made in a number of ways, something I plan on poking at in the future.  Basically, I think longifrons, to bolt on the Damascus group, is likely a dairy adapted for semi-arid regions and I think that is telling when we consider the spread of lactase persistence by a people already implicated.

See also:

Broxham, Kugler, Medugorac (2015) "A Case Study of Genetic Strains of Busa Cattle..."

A Brief History of the Shorthorn Cattle Migrations...

Grigg (1972) "The Agricultural Systems of the World: An Evolutionary Approach"

McInernet, Jeremy (2010)  "The Cattle of the Sun: Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks"

Hristov et al (2015) "Mitochondrial diversity in autochthonous cattle breeds from the Balkan Peninsula"

SIMČIČ et al (2008) "Genetic Characterization of Auochthonous Cattle Breeds, Cika and Busha, Using Microsatellites"

Budimir et al (2014) "Mitochondrial DNA as a tool for identification of genetic diversity among domestic animals"

* Quick note.  Understandably, many resources online confusingly equate longifrons, which is Latin for "long faced" with longhorns, which it is not by definition.  Remember: longifrons have short horns!

** The earliest accepted absolute date of longifrons in is the LN Swiss Pile Dwellings and this is also true for pressure formed, bifacial retouched arrowheads.  Switzerland, OTOH, may have some weird dating problems (Alasdair Whittle, 1988) and, aside from being a bit of an outlier, the clines appear to come out of SW Iberia.

See also: "On the Breeds of Cattle—Historic and Current Classifications" Felis et al, 2011 [Link]


  1. Very interesting thanks. The East Anatolian Red and Tarentaise also looks very much like the Busa cattle.

  2. There are evidence of at least three areas where Neolithic Farmers crossed their domesticated cattle with Aurochs. Switzerland,Italy and Britain/Ireland.



    3. Thanks for these links. The intentional crossing of aurochs with domestics makes a lot of sense, but I second article was particularly interesting.
      The oldest brachyceros is dated to the Swiss Pile Dwellings, so this is particularly interesting. That and the connection to the Horgen culture. I'll explore this further.