The return of the Auroch

“Hailed by Julius Caesar for its extraordinary size and the subject of cave paintings dating back 17,000 years, the extinct aurochs has been described as the most important animal in the history of humankind.

Standing 6ft high at the shoulder and weighing more than a tonne, it is the ancestor of all cattle and helped usher in an era of agriculture, which sparked the birth of civilisation.

Now, after nearly 400 years, the enormous creature is on the verge of being brought back to life with help from Scottish Highland Cattle, in the hope that wild roaming herds could help restore lost ecosystems.

Since 2008, the Tauros Programme in the Netherlands has sought genetic traits of the aurochs from cattle scattered throughout Europe, with the goal of breeding them into a unique herd.

Researchers have scoured historical accounts and studied artworks to understand how the aurochs looked and behaved.

Thirteen years after the project began, the programme has a herd of around 350 to 400 animals.

Ronald Goderie, director of the Taurus Foundation, which is overseeing the Tauros Programme, said: “What we see in our herds in terms of how they look is that they are slowly getting closer to the image we have in mind.

“But it’s not just about aesthetics, it’s also about de-domestication. The animals are performing more and more wild behaviour. We saw wonderful examples of that last summer when we have very high water levels along many rivers in the Netherlands.

“This resulted in a lot of autonomous behaviour such as swimming to dry places, which we had not seen in our herds up to that point.

“While we’re still in the process of actively breeding the animals, they are showing more and more signs of self-reliance.”

Aurochs were once present across the whole of Europe, but the last animal was recorded in a Polish forest in 1627.

The team has chosen to breed the features into cows, rather than using Jurassic Park-style editing techniques, so that the animals can be released into the wild.

They hope to reach a point where they could live on areas of 50,000 hectares without much human interference.”

Comment: The red drawn ones are the size of the Autochs and the white our puny modern cattle. Perhaps these resuscitated Aurochs could be the national beast of an independent Scotland. I like to think of them roaming the Highlands. pl

Extinct cattle species could finally be brought back from the dead (

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11 Responses to The return of the Auroch

  1. JK/AR says:

    Fascinating article. Greatly appreciated. Looking forward …

  2. Fourth and Long says:

    For a second I thought this was about the fabled red heifer. Is Col Lang hinting at some secret info he heard about? Supposedly if the red heifer is found they can build the third temple in Jerusalem. Please. Not now.

  3. Leith says:

    I wonder how an Aurochs steak or burger would cook up? I like buffalo burgers but I’ve heard most of that on the market is a beefalo hybrid.

  4. JK/AR says:


    I may be able to help with that ‘hankering for a buff burg’ – Nigh on twenty year ago I’d been married up with a Osage gal (half at any rate – has headrights) and visiting her Grandma in Pawhuska Oklahoma I got introduced to just the place:

    The good Colonel’s post comes timely as my ex’ birthday is May 1st (and yes I called her spending near half an hour on the phone).

    I’d add just one last thing if I may – not knowing where in the heck you is exactly at geographically speaking but – should you find yourself in that neighborhood this is a superb place to spend some hours (actually in my experience a whole 48 hours at least!) exploring:

    An added benefit is right outside the main [museum visitors] entrance is there’s 100% buffalo burgers flame-broiled to suit your taste. Mmmm mmm!

    (I have absolutely no “arrangement” whatsoever with the place[s].)

    (Those Osage ladies in their jurisdiction are positively brutal to white boys in divorce court. Word to the wise Leith – simply a word to the wise.)

    • Leith says:

      JK/AR –

      Thanks for the tip. I’d like to try one of those 100 percenters if I ever get down that way. But I’ve already got a SWMBO who can be positively brutal if I even do more than glance astray at another gal.

  5. d74 says:

    “an independent Scotland.”

    Oh Yeah! If only many rewilded bulls could do it…

  6. TTG says:

    This will go well with the rewilding of European Bison in Eastern Europe. That program is proceeding nicely. Those Bison are as tall and heavy as the Aurochs. I wonder how they would get along.

  7. Philip Owen says:

    I seem to remember a television feature, in black and white so a long time ago, about a back breeding programme in, then, Czechoslovakia about recreating aurochs.

    I wonder how much natural rewilding happened to Texas Longhorms? Would they have the features of independence to put into the New Auroch bloodline?

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