mid-13c., "property" of any kind, including money, land, income; from Anglo-French catel "property" (Old North French catel, Old French chatel), from Medieval Latin capitale "property, stock," noun use of neuter of Latin adjective capitalis "principal, chief," literally "of the head," from caput (genitive capitis) "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head"). Compare sense development of fee, pecuniary.
in later Middle English especially "movable property, livestock" (early 14c.), including horses, sheep, asses, etc.; it began to be limited to "cows and bulls" from late 16c.