The limited ranges of the wild progenitors of many of the primary European domestic species point to their origins further east in Anatolia or the fertile crescent. The wild ox (Bos primigenius), however, ranged widely and it is unknown whether it was domesticated within Europe as one feature of a local contribution to the farming economy. Here we examine mitochondrial DNA control-region sequence variation from 392 extant animals sampled from Europe, Africa and the Near East, and compare this with data from four extinct British wild oxen. The ancient sequences cluster tightly in a phylogenetic analysis and are clearly distinct from modern cattle. Network analysis of modern Bos taurus identifies four star-like clusters of haplotypes, with intra-cluster diversities that approximate to that expected from the time depth of domestic history. Notably, one of these clusters predominates in Europe and is one of three encountered at substantial frequency in the Near East. In contrast, African diversity is almost exclusively composed of a separate haplogroup, which is encountered only rarely elsewhere. These data provide strong support for a derived Near-Eastern origin for European cattle.