Organized Panel Session
Humans and bovines have formed a successful partnership: people have turned vast stretches of the earth into pastures to feed cattle and buffalo, and they in turn provide us with milk, meat, hides, and labor. Along the way, bovines have become integral parts of human societies, serving as valuable wealth items, essential agricultural tools, and even holy animals. This panel will explore the history of these relationships in Asia from the domestication of bovines in prehistoric times to the twentieth century. Brunson shows how zooarchaeology reveals that the process of domesticating bovines was longer and more complex than was once thought, but that by the Bronze Age cattle were bred in large numbers in North China. In British India, Adcock shows how the “improvement” of cattle served larger colonial arguments of British superiority. For nineteenth century Vietnam, Davis elucidates the crucial role of water buffalo and other bovines in imperial discourses of property and development before and during French colonial rule. Finally, Braden explains that cattle are themselves consumers, and that their dietary needs had a significant impact on the political and environmental history of twentieth century China. This panel will bring scholars of different regions together to discuss human-bovine relationships across time and space.