Sign up for our Free email Newsletter
and get all the latest wildlife news!

Browse Old Articles


Aurochs being recreated - Or are they?

11/10/2012 16:19:22


What is the goal of this project? Is it to save the butterflies that are suffering due to lack of grazing animals? You don't need to create a new species to do that.

Is it to recreate an extinct species? This may be possible, one day, with DNA tricks in embryos, but that is not what is being planned here.  

Begins to sound a little like a vanity project.

Ancient breed to return to Central Europe

September 2012. For hundreds of thousands of years Aurochs were a feature of the European wilderness. Since the death of the last aurochs in 1627 in the Jaktorow game preserve in Poland, it seemed that Europe has lost this key species forever. However European Wildlife, in cooperation with the Dutch Taurus Foundation, is planning to return Aurochs to the mountains of Central Europe.

The project is part of a program of the European Centre of Biodiversity whose aim is to protect endangered species and to reintroduce the ones that have become extinct in many places - European bison, wild cats or wild bees. And the aurochs, of course.

Cross breeding
The Dutch Taurus Foundation is preparing two herds that they hope will form the base for semi-wild breeding herds of aurochs in the mountains of the Czech Republic. The aurochs are being ‘recreated' by cross-breeding the suitable primitive breeds of cattle from the whole of Europe within the Tauros Programme.

"The central idea of the Tauros Programme is to find the European bovine breeds with the best ‘primitive' characteristics and breed them into a new fully self-sufficient cattle breed. It will not be an exact copy of the aurochs, but will be very close, so we will call the animal the Tauros. The breeding should be done on a large scale because large numbers are needed," said Ronald Goderie, a board member of the Taurus Foundation. The Aurochs is the animal to choose as our reference, because after about 400.000 years of evolution, the Aurochs had turned into an animal perfected for the European situation.

The Foundation examined about 30 primitive bovine breeds and works with about 6 European breeds, each with at least some of the right characteristics. In each area they prefer to start with a suitable local primitive cattle breed if available and if proven to have enough primitive characteristics. The project started in 2008 and is divided into four phases. In the concluding phase, after about 2025, the expected results will have all the right characteristics of the aurochs - the colour, size, behaviour and the way of grazing. These animals will by then have been recognized as wild living creatures and released into the wild. But the early results from the Taurus Foundation already look very promising, so probably within a couple of years the herds will look like real aurochs-herds.

The first attempt to back-breed the aurochs was realized by the Heck brothers in Germany in the 1920s-1930s. They created the so called Heck cattle that still can be found at some zoos and are used in several nature reserves. However, those particular animals do not resemble the original aurochs in body size, horn shape and size or by their behaviour.

Original distribution
Once the aurochs roamed over vast areas of Europe, Northern Africa and Asia. It was an impressive animal, perfectly adapted to the diversity of landscapes it inhabited. The Aurochs ranged from open savannah-like landscapes to marshes, forests and mountain foothills, and was able to fill in most ecological niches encountered in Europe.

Adult Aurochs could hold their ground against big predators such as wolves; the long and thick horns acted as a powerful defence against any outside threat and the animal was as tall as two meters high.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

To post a comment you must be logged in.

New user? Register here


Click join and we will email you with your password. You can then sign on and join the discussions right away.