The proverb as representative, in historical criticism — that is, critical analysis of a text based on its historical, cultural and social context — of a postulated purely pastoral state of society, references the notion of cattle as wealth in such a society (however pure):
...our picture of the uses of cattle beyond subsistence in Neolithic Europe...[provides] enough evidence to suggest strongly that cattle were valued as wealth as well as calories.
"Cattle as weath in Neolithic Europe: Where's the beef?", Nerissa Russell, Chapter 5 in the 1998 The Archeology of Value [link requires registration for access].
Wilde contrasts that historical criticism of the classical proverb (as an "unconscious survival" of pastorial society) with the 'historical criticism' of Plutarch, who knew or claimed to know the origin of the proverb in the simple historical fact of coins made by Theseus depicting a bull's head.
The two critical analyses are not incompatible.