The Aurochs -Wild cattle
for Europe backbreeding: the TaurOs
Taurus Foundation/TAUROS EUROPE
Red area represents the range of Bos Primigenius Primigenius;
the Aurochs subspecies that is our focus
The Aurochs
was a big animal
was a slender animal
had long legs
had a big, long and slender face
showed sexual dimorphism in color
showed sexual dimorphism in height
was big horned
Aurochs bulls stood
between 160 and 185 cm
high at the shoulders.
Some 20 to 50 cm taller
than many modern bovines
Morphology, examples
Sexual dimorphism
Big size
TAUROS Europe/Taurus foundation;
Our goal: to enhance natural processes (i.e.
herbivory/grazing) in Dutch/European nature;
Our means: a herd of cattle and horses/ponies of over 600
animals (700 cattle, 100 horses/ponies);
Total managed area: about 2.500 ha in the Netherlands
(Taurus foundation), ready for Europe (TAUROS Europe);
Experience: more than 20 years of experience;
Cooperation: Ark Nature (Nl), Rewilding Europe & others (EU);
Clients: National forestry service, other nature organizations,
municipalities, for ‘grazing’;
Wild cattle
For feral grazing breeds have to be:
 Fattening up easily in summer/harvest and be (winter)hardy;
 Using a broad variety of vegetation (eating grass, but also
some browsing);
 Able to adapt to changing and fluctuating circumstances;
 Easy calving;
 Extensively managable;
 In general: fit for purpose;
Many present day breeds are too specialized for a complete
self-sufficient feral grazing system.
The alternative: TaurOs project
 The breeding and distribution of a complete self
sufficient cattle breed as the best alternative for the
extinct Aurochs the: TaurOs;
 Based on scientific evidence: the same ecological
role, same appearance and close to the genetic
 Applicable in public natural areas (at least in Nl);
 The Aurochs as a reference.
The domesticated cattle breeds have disadvantages;
Free roaming cattle is a key species for European
nature and could be the crown on a successfull
Rewilding Initiative;
We (the people behind the project) would be very
pleased if this project proves to be successfull;
Scientifically spoken there are challenges and
opportunities: but it will at least lead to a better
understanding of (wild) cattle.
Can it be done?
There is far more knowledge on the Aurochs than in the
early 20th century:
Historical records (Greek, Roman medieval Polish and
German sources);
Archaeozoology from all over Europe (skeletons, horns, skulls,
Isotope studies (feeding patern, ecology);
Neolithic art (cave paintings, rock carvings);
Historical art (drawings, statues, etc);
Modern genetics: mtDNA of Aurochs is available, work on
nuclear DNA is being done;
So yes, we think it can be done.
The project step by step
1) Determining the characteristics of the Aurochs (by a scientific
2) A selection of European bovine breeds with at least some of
the right characteristics (about 30 breeds);
3) The collection of ancient bone (and other) material from the
Aurochs (from several European locations). Extraction and
analyses of the ancient-DNA as a genetic reference.
Technically difficult;
4) The breeding programme, worked out into breeding plans for
different European locations. Use of local breeds if possible;
5) Monitoring and evaluation: re-iterating loop of the breeding
Where do we stand?
2008: Start of the project, forming of the scientific
 2009: Selection European breeds, importing most
promising breeds (s.a. Maremmana primitivo);
 2010: Introduction of first crossbreeds in public
nature areas;
 2011/2012: DNA-extraction and analyses
(voorjaar 2011). Scaling up genetic research;
 2009-2012: ‘Broad’ crossings so we can select
later on. ‘No regret’-steps.
Some cattle breeds
Maremmana ‘primitiva’ (Italy)
Pajuna (Southern Spain)
Maronesa (Northern Portugal)
Podolica (Italy)
Limia (Northwestern Spain)
Sayaguesa (north-central Spain)
 Broad
international publicity (Time
magazine, National Geographic, Volkskrant
(national Dutch newspaper);
 Genetic research;
 The first crossbreds (natural crossings,
artificial insemination, embryotransplantation).
The F1: Don’t they look nice?
Different breeds
& Limia
Different breeds
Podolica &
Different breeds
Highlander x
Pajuna x
& Limia x
Crossbreds: Maremmana x Pajuna
Results: herd in transition
Desired end result
© Daniel Foidl
Artist Impressions
© Thomas
Future image?

The Aurochs - European WILDLIFE