Photo dump: ancient Aurochs and breeding attempts to revive the wild cow

June 22, 2021

Like many domesticated animals, the cows of today descend from a wild breed. Let’s take a look at what remains of the ancient aurochs, the original wild cow.

Aurochs, German for “original cow (ox)”

Aurochs portrayed in a prehistoric cave painting in the Grotte de Lascaux, France:

Cro-Magnon graffito of Bos primigenius (aurochs) in Grotta del Romito, Papasidero, Italy:

The violent cup of Vaphio showing an aurochs hunt, Greece, (15th century B.C.):

Coat of arms of Moldavia from 1481:

Hunting horn of the last aurochs bull that belonged to King Sigismund III (1566-1632) of Poland:

Illustration from Sigismund von Herberstein’s book published in 1556 captioned : “I am ‘urus’, tur in Polish, aurox in German (dunces call me bison) lit. (the) ignorant (ones) had given me the name (of) Bison”; Latin original: Urus sum, polonis Tur, germanis Aurox: ignari Bisontis nomen dederant:

The inscription reads: “The Aurochs – Bos primigenius bojanus, the ancestor of domestic cattle, lived in this forest Jaktorów until the year 1627.”:

16th-century illustration by Teodoro Ghisi:

Charles Hamilton Smith’s copy of a painting possibly dating to the 16th century:

An aurochs bull used in heraldryCoat of arms of Mecklenburg region, Germany (1866-1934)

Preserved skull of an aurochs:

Mounted skeleton of an aurochs bull at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen:

Attempts to revive the Aurochs in Germany, 1920s and 1930s

Still looking for olde photos of the cattle they produced. From Wikipedia:

In the early 1920s, two German zoo directors (in Berlin and Munich), the brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck, began a selective breeding program to breed back the aurochs into existence from the descendant domesticated cattle.

Lutz embraced the NSDAP, while Heinz was put on the first train to Dachau for marrying a Jewish woman and supporting the communist party within Germany. The Heck project was then supported by the Third Reich.

Hermann Göring presented with a habitation map of the Aurochs:

German zoo-goers visit the bison enclosure in the Schorfheide, 1938:

Everyone loves a good farm tour:

Newer photos of the Heck cattle

Write up on the breed: Heck Cattle

From Derek Gow’s Upcott Grange Farm in Devon, England:

Taurus Cattle Project

From Wikipedia:

The Arbeitsgemeinschaft Biologischer Umweltschutz, a conservation group in Germany, started to crossbreed Heck cattle with southern-European primitive breeds in 1996, with the goal of increasing the aurochs-likeness of certain Heck cattle herds. These crossbreeds are called Taurus cattle. It is intended to bring in aurochs-like features that are supposedly missing in Heck cattle using Sayaguesa Cattle and Chianina, and to a lesser extent Spanish Fighting Cattle (Lidia). The same breeding program is being carried out in Latvia,[50] in Lille Vildmose National Park in Denmark, and in the Hungarian Hortobágy National Park. The program in Hungary also includes Hungarian Grey cattle and Watusi.

Aurochs-reconstitué in France

Currently there’s a farmer in France, Xavier Chanssard, producing rare breeds for research and meat production including what he calls the Aurochs Green.

Check out his website here:

Found this Aurochs historical timeline on his website:

Historical distribution of the species:

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