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Aurochs

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Sebastian Acosta
Sebastian grew up on a goat farm in rural Wisconsin. He learned a lot about different animals as a youngster. While he is no longer in charge of feeding the kids, he still helps maintain the family farm on the weekends. In his free time, he travels the world and finds every opportunity to escape in nature.

Today’s animal of the day is the auroch. Thousands of years ago, this species of cattle were among the most widespread grazing animals on Earth. The last known Aurochs died in 1627 in Poland. Due to population pressure from humans and domestic cattle, their species became extinct.

Additional Facts About Aurochs

  • Aurochs roamed the plains of Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa. They played a vital role across multiple human cultures as they appear in numerous art pieces worldwide.
  • Bos Primigenius is the scientific name of Aurochs. This Latin term means ‘original’ or ‘firstborn.’
  • Aurochs resembled present-day cattle, except with longer legs, more prominent horns, bigger shoulder muscles, and a thicker skull. Scientists estimate they may have measured up to six feet tall, weighing between 1500 and 3000 pounds.
  • Aurochs had dark black coats with white or brown stripes running down their spine. Female aurochs were smaller than the males, with smaller horns and lighter coat colors.
  • They consumed grass, acorns, and twigs, drawing all their nutrients from grazing large tracts of land. A side effect of their extinction was the overgrowth of forests and woodlands.
  • Because of their large size, only the fiercest predators such as big cats and wolves dared to attack them. As humans refined animal husbandry, aurochs gradually died out due to loss of habitat, hunting by humans, and disease transmission from other cattle.
  • Aurochs share distant relations with antelopes, gazelles, buffalo, sheep, and goats.
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  1. In the 1930s, Nazi commander Hermann Goering asked geneticists Heinz and Lutz Heck to recreate the species. Goering instructed them to back breed from Auroch descendants. The Heck brothers crossed Spanish fighting bulls with highland cattle and breeds from Corsica and Hungary which eventually created the “Nazi Super Cows”. They used the cows for propaganda. The size and strength of the cows resembled the strength of the Nazi party.

    Gow said, “There was thinking that you could selectively breed animals – and indeed people – for ‘Aryan’ characteristics, which were rooted in runes, folklore and legend. What the Germans did with their breeding programme was create something truly primeval”. He thinks the Nazis were supportive of this project because the bulls were fierce and aggressive, the International Business Times reports.

    The Heck cattle never reached the size of the Aurochs, though they resembled them in muscle and strength. Neither of the brothers survived the war, and Lutz Heck’s breed of cattle died before 1945. What we have now is the Heinz Heck’s breed.

    The modern Heck bulls measure about 1.4m in height and weighs about 600kg. Their horns don’t resemble those of the Aurochs, but they are very capable of living and sustaining in the wild. There are about 2000 Heck’s cattle roaming in the European reserves of Barvaria and the Netherlands.

    Gow said that since he killed the most aggressive ones, the others have been peaceful.

    See: https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/nazi-super-cows-hitler-goering.html

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