Auroch (Bos primigenius)
The Auroch was a large species of wild ox that inhabited Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is the ancestor of domestic cattle. The species survived in Europe until the 17th century.
There are three recognized subspecies: Eurasian, Indian, and North African. Biologisits hypothesize the Auroch was domesticated twice in two separate events – the Eurasian into Taurine cattle and the Indian into Zebu cattle.
From skeletal remains, written descriptions, and visual representations it is believed that Aurochs, on average, were six feet tall at the shoulder and weighed up to 3,300 pounds. They had massive horns that could reach 31 inches in length. Unlike modern cattle the species had long, slender legs and their skulls, due to the size of their horns, were substantially larger. The coloration seems to be standard across the three subspecies with the calves being a chestnut color which in bulls darkened into a very deep brown or black with a white stripe along the spine and whitish muzzles. Cows retained their reddish chestnut color into maturity. The North African Auroch is sometimes portrayed with a light colored “saddle” pattern on their back.
The last recorded Eurasian auroch died in 1627 in the Jaktorów Forest, Poland from natural causes. No measures to preserve the animal were taken according to the historical record. Though, the conception of extinction was not accepted until around 1800 CE.
Unrestricted hunting, loss of critical habitat due to human encroachment, and diseases transmitted from domesticated cattle all contributed to the extinction of the Auroch.
There have been a number of attempts to breed back the Auroch. None of these efforts are recognized as being successful.