Aurochs

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Bos primigenius primigenius
  (Bojanus, 1827)
Bos primigenius namadicus
  (Falconer, 1859)
Bos primigenius mauretanicus
  (Thomas, 1881)

Bos mauretanicus Thomas, 1881
Bos namadicus Falconer, 1859

The aurochs or urus (Bos primigenius), the ancestor of domestic cattle, was a type of huge wild cattle which inhabited Europe, Asia and North Africa, but is now extinct; it survived in Europe until 1627.

The aurochs was far larger than most modern domestic cattle with a shoulder height of 2 metres (6.6 ft) and weighing 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb). The aurochs was regarded as a challenging quarry animal, contributing to its extinction. The last recorded aurochs, a female, died in 1627 in the Jaktor√≥w Forest, Poland, and its skull is now the property of Livrustkammaren in Stockholm.

Aurochs appear in prehistoric cave paintings, Julius Caesar's The Gallic War and as the national symbol of many European countries, states and cities such as Alba-Iulia, Kaunas, Romania, Moldavia, Mecklenburg, and Uri. The swiss canton Uri was actually named after this animal species.

Domestication of bovines occurred in several parts of the world but at roughly the same time, about 8,000 years ago, possibly all derived from the aurochs. In 1920, the Heck brothers, who were German biologists, attempted to recreate aurochs. The resulting cattle are known as Heck cattle or Reconstructed Aurochs, and number in the thousands in Europe today. However, they are genetically and physiologically distinct from aurochs. The Heck brothers' aurochs also have a pale yellow dorsal stripe, instead of white.

Contents

Nomenclature

The words "aurochs", "urus", and "wisent" have all been used synonymously in English.[2][3] However, the extinct aurochs/urus is a completely separate species from the still-extant wisent.

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