What’s an auroch?

Is it a bird? … a plane? …

No, it’s a cow.


If we could trace the ancestry of my Miss Daisy far, far back, we would find a link to something called an auroch—the foremother of the modern-day cow. Wild aurochs were large, lean cattle who roamed the plains of Europe, Asia, and Africa by the millions. Auroch remains have been found that are thought to be 2 million years old.


Photo by Prof saxx via Wikimedia Commons

Aurochs were still plentiful in the time of the Roman Empire, but aggressive hunting resulted in near extinction by the 13th century, when only nobles, and later royals, were allowed to hunt them, and poaching was punishable by death. The last known cow died in 1627 in Poland.

Efforts are now underway to “breed back” the species using modern DNA technology. A European breeding program has resulted in hundreds of second- and third-generation crossbreed cattle that resemble the auroch, and scientists hope to find a way to take DNA from the bones of aurochs in museums and recreate a modern-day clone.


Photo from The National Museum of Denmark via Wikimedia Commons. An auroch dating to 7500 BC, one of two well-preserved aurochs skeletons found in Denmark. The circles indicate where the animal was wounded by arrows.

What’s next … a domesticated T Rex??! Fetch, Dino!

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is fascinating. Was this species have certain qualities that are missing today in the line? Other than interest, are there hopes of re-establishing some sort of specific traits ?

    • MaryJane says:

      Given half the world’s wildlife has become extinct in the last 40 years, merely bringing them back might be the goal. Not sure about traits, etc.

  2. I read about this Auroch breeding project in ” Modern Farmer”. Not sure if I like the idea of cloning an extinct cow. Back breeding to get the ” look” is ok, but not the actual DNA. Sounds cool but actually it’s scary.

  3. Deborah McKissic says:

    Your Miss Daisy is surely a beauty, MaryJane. I was looking through some seed catalogs the other day…getting a jump on spring, ha ha…and the seed savers catalog (www.seedsavers.org) mentioned how they have a herd a white park cattle..these are an ancient breed, and they are very majestic..white..with long horns…some call them the “ancient white park cattle” there are breeders that now have enough in their herds that they sell them…hmm…I could just picture one in my back acreage…and the borough here to complain…so, alas…but the DNA thing..that boggles my mind sometimes and sometimes I think it is not such a great thing…nothing is as good as the original..and if it is gone..I think God had a bigger plan..we all date back to something..some ancestory, so, tracing our roots is interesting..but, reproducing them in a lab…hmm….

  4. Karlyne says:

    I’m afraid I have serious reservations about “bringing back” anything by means of DNA cloning. Humans have such a bad habit of jumping feet first into, especially, scientific endeavors without knowing what the outcome is going to be that this makes me nervous!

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