This particular sketch is owned by the British Museum in London and for this reason there is much more information available about it than most of his other drawings from around this time.
There is a clear study theme to this work, with three completed cows being surrounded by other experimental pencil work. Those remained in lighter and uncommitted finishes. This approach to filling single pieces of paper with a multitude of anatomical practice reminds us of the work on the human body by Leonardo da Vinci.
These study sketches serve as much prized artworks in their own right but also provide valuable information on the artistic techniques used by Peter Paul Rubens as he prepared for larger oil paintings.
This particular drawing is later used for Landscape with Polders and Eleven Cows and Landscape with Cows and Sportsmen. Both of the completed paintings remain in Germany where much of his original artwork remains.
There remains some argument over its precise attribution, though most art historians feel that the weight of evidence would point to it being from the hands of Peter Paul Rubens. It is unlikely that any further information will appear in the future that would cast doubt upon that. It is possible that it may have come from Rubens' studio, rather than the artist himself, as a similar drawing made in red chalk can be found in a private collection.
Whilst Titian is known to have significantly influenced the work of Rubens, it is Anthony van Dyck, his junior, who has also been suggested as the possible creator of this work. Their similarities as draughtsmen has long been accepted, so this connection is almost inevitable.