How complex communities assemble through the animal’s life, and how predictable the process is remains unexplored. Here, we investigate the forces that drive the assembly of rumen microbiomes throughout a cow’s life, with emphasis on the balance between stochastic and deterministic processes. We analyse the development of the rumen microbiome from birth to adulthood using 16S-rRNA amplicon sequencing data and find that the animals shared a group of core successional species that invaded early on and persisted until adulthood. Along with deterministic factors, such as age and diet, early arriving species exerted strong priority effects, whereby dynamics of late successional taxa were strongly dependent on microbiome composition at early life stages. Priority effects also manifest as dramatic changes in microbiome development dynamics between animals delivered by C-section vs. natural birth, with the former undergoing much more rapid species invasion and accelerated microbiome development. Overall, our findings show that together with strong deterministic constrains imposed by diet and age, stochastic colonization in early life has long-lasting impacts on the development of animal microbiomes.