Density of Cows Worldwide


I have been wondering this the past week is that how and why did India become vegetarian. Was it simply a theological quirk or were there some geohistorical reasons for it (the cow was such an economic necessity that it made sense to forgo protein). Was it also an Aryan feature or Dravidian or does that question make no sense?

Another thought that came to mind was that would ancient Indians have been wealthier had they been avid meat-eaters. If there had been lesser resources to go around the population densities would have been lighter perhaps but of course this pales in comparison to bad leadership.

As an aside I definitely concede the fact that more often than not local leadership is almost always better for the population than foreign dynasties. Therefore Hindu dynasties probably were better for India than Muslim ones simply because India was home for the former. The Mughal’s great accomplishments were in art and architecture, which may be very well for posterity but didn’t make them a match for the modern age in contrast to the Safavids who built Iran into a successful nation state.

I would hazard that Ashoka was probably a better Emperor of India than Akbar simply because the former gifted the world India’s most successful export, blue-eyed Buddha (believe it or not the Buddha had blue eyes). We sometimes forget that Buddhism probably ranks as India’s greatest accomplishment in the wider world; it transformed all Eastern religions and became the dominant philosophical paradigm for so much of the ancient world. It’s reflective of Western bias that Indian academics and historians are more concerned with ancient India’s influence on the modern West; the Mitanni were a footnote in history compared to the great accomplishments of Indic civilisation in the East.

However the reason why I think India never really matched China in national identity, sovereignty and political cohesion (even when the Chinese were ruled by foreigners they still managed to maintain their cultural coherence to a very great and recognisable extent) is simply because of caste. The greatest faultline in South Asia, after creed, is caste and that made Indian society vulnerable to foreign despots. The court of Mughal Kings is littered with Brahmins and Rajputs and let’s not forget Urdu was an invention of Khatris and Kayasths. The Brits didn’t only come up with divide and rule; the fissures were inbuilt Into Indian society.. The Sikhs achieved the dominance they did was because they welded a caste-light community to achieve assabiyah, which the different children of Brahma frankly eschewed from time to time. This is something to thank Pakistan and the Muslims; they are such a galvanising force for Hindu society to reconsolidate and shed away such internal divisions..

Interesting Links:

Food Writer Becomes A Butcher To Better Understand The Value Of Meat

Pakistan elects first non-Muslim in modern history to general national assembly seat

Only catastrophe truly reduces inequality, according to a historical survey


23 Replies to “Density of Cows Worldwide”

  1. The Mughals were weakened and then removed by the British.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think anything similar happened with the Safavids. Iran was never directly colonized.

    1. But why wasn’t Iran colonised? The Safavids may have built monuments (not as impressive; Isfahan still is not the Taj) but there was a state and national building that just wasn’t there with the Mughal’s.

      The Mughals were of India but not Indian; the Safavids has no such distinction and that does make a difference.

      1. The European colonizers were maritime powers and relied on capturing ports to launch their colonizing campaigns. Iran’s trade was predominantly land based, and it lacked the sheer number of port cities India had.

        British Raj in India was really the intersection of two maritime worlds. The British and the coastal Indians. And it is in coastal India that we see some harmony with its legacy. For the interior, the Raj was oppressive (with the exception of Punjab), and they probably were more comfortable with the Mughals, as far as foreign rulers were concerned.

      2. “The Mughals were of India but not Indian”

        I don’t buy this argument. To me, it has shades of soft Hindutva (Sorry Zack). Jahangir’s mother was a Rajput. He and all this descendants were part genetically “Indian” (If anyone can be said to be “Indian” prior to 1947). They were not a foreign dynasty ruling over the “natives”, though they started out that way.

          1. If Hindutva were just about reclaiming a “historic identity”, it wouldn’t be a problem. But it is an ideology which aims to exclude non-Hindus and claim that only Hindus are first-class citizens of India. In that sense, it’s like Islamism. The term was coined by Veer Savarkar, who openly admired Mussolini and Hitler.

            According to Savarkar, Muslims and Christians cannot be trusted because their holy land is not in India. It is a very problematic ideology and goes against all of India’s traditions of secular nationalism.

            As for the Mughals, I would again ask: How many generations does it take before one can be considered “Indian”? Or does “Indian” only mean Hindu? This is a serious question and it gets to the heart of many of our debates on this forum.

          2. I sympathize more with Kabir than Zack.

            It is better to look to the future than “reclaiming” past . Obsession with past means future is slipping away through your fingers.

    2. Mughals were weakened by the Marathas. By the time the British became a military power in India the Mughals had been reduced to a joke.

      1. The Mughals become weaker after the death of Aurangzeb. Yet they were still kept around and nominally ruled India. It was the British who finished them off after the Mutiny.

  2. I wonder what came first: widespread adoption of vegetarianism or (informal) ban on eating beef?

    Perhaps Buddhism was responsible for the former, but given that lots of people would have preferred to turn back to meat-eating AND given the cow’s all-purpose utility as a farm and dairy animal, pledges were made to just abstain from eating cows.

    Is it possible to determine archaelogically when Indians started resorting to vegetarianism, or abstention from beef? Have there been any discoveries?

  3. Is there any real proof that the Buddha had blue eyes? If I understand correctly, you’re referring to the “thirty-two marks of a great man,” but considering other attributes include a sheathed male organ and a tongue with magic saliva, I don’t think it’s meant to be taken literally.

  4. Seemingly trivial but it is a quite interesting topic. I would like to ask local people – if not eating beef and considering cows as holly animals were related to Aryans, what is the actual connection? Why not horses? I guess that Aryans did not bring any cows to Hindustan (I may give you later my version).

    The other thing is regarding blue eyed Buda. Anyone knows that Buda was before represented as a masculine warrior and now looks as not very active tubby hedonist. When this change happened? Also, do you know that one branch of Aryans continued their expedition to China? It is widely known that a grave of ancient Caucasian blonde woman was discovered in China. Moreover, that one Chinese dynasty from Babylonian period was Aryans (now, I consider them as an Indian dynasty in China).
    There is a 3 minute a video which presents a rare example of blonde and blue eyed Chinese people:

  5. Is Hotei or fat Buddha statue a kind of Santa for Buddhist children? I was asked to rub his tummy for good luck.

  6. Vegetarianism is not a pan-Indian feature. It is a feature among the Jains and the Brahmins. But the other classes were never prohibited from having meat.

    Have a look at this nice article –

    Milk consumption is inversely correlated with meat consumption in India apparently. But I am not entirely convinced of this map since it rates Punjab and Haryana very low on meat consumption.

    Nevertheless when looking at the map few things stick out –

    -> Milk consumption is highest in NW India and it is the same region where the Indus civilization existed.

    The Indus civilization is obviously the center of domestication of the South Asian Zebu cattle.

    -> People with the highest per capita consumption of milk in India are from Haryana & Punjab and they also happen to be a very sturdy group of people compared to the rest of the Indians. For example, most boxers and wrestlers in India come from this region.


    However, there is no evidence of vegetarianism among the Indus inhabitants. Nor is there any evidence that Indians historically have been a largely vegetarian people (even in the pre-Islamic period). It maybe pointed out that the domesticated chicken itself spread out from India into West Eurasia from the Indus civilization period.

    Prohibition of beef eating however is a different matter. It probably has a very old history. The fact of the matter is that the Indian subcontinent has a very large fertile area in comparison to Arabia and other regions of the Near East. There is a reason why South Asia can support such a massive population. Therefore it makes logical sense that the Indus civilization people prohibited beef because there really was no dire necessity to have it and economically the cow was such a valuable animal. Infact, in the Rigveda, the wealth of a person is often associated with how many cows he had.

    According to Al-Biruni, based on what was obviously relayed to him by Indians, the prohibition of cow meat was brought about by Lord Krsna and that Indians before that time used to have it. But there is no way to verify this.

    1. “The Indus civilization is obviously the center of domestication of the South Asian Zebu cattle.”

      Domestication of Zebu cattle precedes the IVC, “n that zebu mtDNA sequences
      cluster into two distinct groups each consisting of a centrally
      positioned, numerically predominant (and hence presumably
      ancestral) sequence (termed the I1 and I2); I1 was located in northwest India, if not IVC.
      The age of I1 haplotype is 13,600 NP, and I2 haplotype is 8200 BP.

      To me, the issue of zebu cattle domestication in IVC is itself a bit difficult to follow, since lactase persistence SNPs did not arrive a full 5000 years after domestications, around 1850 BCE. what did the IVC do with the zebu milk except eating cheese and yoghurt? the age of cheese and yoghurt has also been dated much later.

      Things look IVC-centric in India because IVC was the predominant center of population before 5000 BP; that does not mean you can locate the origin of things there.

      1. I know that Zebu domestication precedes the mature phase of the Indus civilization by thousands of years. But Mehrgarh and Bhiranna are considered as the precursors of the Indus civilization. Hence I made a more generic statement.


        Regarding lactase persistence, you are making a mistake.

        With regard to aDNA, we only have the Indus Periphery samples and then the Swat samples.

        The Narasimhan et al paper did not show that the Swat samples had lactase persistence and that the Indus Pwriphery did not. They have yet to prove it. Read these series of tweets –

        Read the table and observe that he does not show the Indus Periphery samples here. He is merely talking about the Iran/Turan samples which are significantly different from the Indus Periphery samples.

        Secondly have a look at the Swat IA & Swat H data. There is only 1 example of what looks like a lactase tolerance individual out of dozens of samples – much greater sample size compared to Iran/Tirana, yet only 1 example of lactase persistence.

        And this is only on twitter. They haven’t really come up with a paper on this. The Narasimhan et al paper is silent about it and they are likely to take up the lactase persistence issue in some forthcoming paper.


        Therefore let us not put the cart before th horse. There is a strong West-centric, Eurocentric bias going on here. These people are working with the assumption that since the lactase persistence gene in South Asia and Europe is the same and that since it arrived in Europe from the steppe, the same must have happened in South Asia. But they have to prove it first.

        We have cattle domestication from a very early period and it is that same Zebu cattle that we have been using up to the modern age. The supposed steppe migration in 2nd millennium BC did not bring any taurine cattle in South Asia. So how did the lactase persistence genes of these steppe migrants who themselves brought no cattle manage to trump the native genes of people who were already using the Zebu cattle thousands of years from before that ?

        On the other hand, already during the Indus period, the Zebu cattle was taken from South Asia into Iran and Central Asia and then into Near East and Africa. There is also a Zebu cattle in the Caucasus in Azerbaijan and lastly, there are some old steppe cattle that exist in Europe and these have Zebu admixture. Have a look –


        Lastly, go back to the article I linked in my earlier post. Observe the fact on the map that milk consumption and therefore lactase persistence is highest in NW India with Haryana coming on top. This is the geography of the Indus civilization with some of earliest sites found in Haryana such as Bhiranna, Kunal, Farmana etc. If it came from the steppe, it should not correlate with the geography of the Indus civilization.

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