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Aurochs
July 21, 2012 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Heavy Breeding. "In 1920, the brothers Lutz and Heinz Heck, directors of the Berlin and Munich zoos, respectively, began a two-decade breeding experiment. Working with domestic cattle sought out for their 'primitive' characteristics, they attempted to recreate 'in appearance and behavior' the living likeness of the animals’ extinct wild ancestor: the aurochs. 'Once found everywhere in Germany,' according to Lutz Heck, by the end of the Middle Ages the aurochs had largely succumbed to climate change, overhunting, and competition from domestic breeds."

Białowieża Forest – Remarkable Remnant of Europe’s Primeval Past

Aurochs previously. Bialowieza previously. Nazis trying to breed back tarpans in Bialowieza previously.

Now some aurochs have a role in a new film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and are being played by Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.
posted by homunculus (31 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Didn't the Nazis want to bring back the aurochs on the grounds that today's degenerate, docile cattle were unworthy of the stomachs of a master-race of pitiless warriors or something like that? In other words, because they wanted a steak that puts up more of a fight?
posted by acb at 11:21 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Years ago a discussion started at work about what happened to the wild cows. This was before Google and Wikipedia and just wasn't easily answered. So now I know.

But outside of zoos, does anyone want large animals with horns running around? Cows can be a handful as it is, I can only imagine what wild aurochs would be like.
posted by tommasz at 11:28 AM on July 21, 2012


For it to be true heavy breeding the aurochs should have decorative umlauts.
posted by srboisvert at 11:32 AM on July 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Nope, no one wants that. If they we not already all extinct, I would exterminate them myself. Why, you ask? Such a handful.
posted by ericost at 11:32 AM on July 21, 2012


Great post homunculus - and I loved the article about working with the pot-bellied pigs to simulate these beasts.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:58 AM on July 21, 2012


> For it to be true heavy breeding the aurochs should have decorative umlauts.

\m/ aüröchs \m/
posted by !Jim at 12:23 PM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maintaining a breeding population of their wild ancestors would seem to be the least of what we owe our domesticants.
posted by jamjam at 12:38 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


tommasz: "t outside of zoos, does anyone want large animals with horns running around?"

I always thought Acadia National Park would be a nicer place if the Park Service introduced a couple hundred grizzly bears.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:38 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]



Now some aurochs have a role in a new film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and are being played by Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.


I found that very distracting at first. I was finally able to tell myself that it was what they'd look like in the imagination of a six-year-old girl, but I was initially going "that's no aurochs, that's a pig."
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 12:41 PM on July 21, 2012


My conservation biologist sensibilities are offended by the idea that someone would use baby pigs as stand-ins for aurochs. Seriously people, either use something that looks even slightly bovine, or just call it something else.
posted by Scientist at 12:47 PM on July 21, 2012


"Julius Caesar described the aurochs of Germania as an elephantine creature prone to unprovoked attack."
Do we need aurochs when we have Iran and North Korea?
posted by Cranberry at 12:48 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If it wasn't for all the Germanist nonsense, there would be something wonderfully Quixotic about the whole project.
posted by Jehan at 1:00 PM on July 21, 2012


Those pig/aurochs are adorable! They need to be breeding fat little lap-aurochs, not the big dangerous ones.
posted by Forktine at 1:02 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


But outside of zoos, does anyone want large animals with horns running around? Cows can be a handful as it is, I can only imagine what wild aurochs would be like.

I dunno, our American Bison are pretty cool.*



*Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo!*
posted by Atreides at 1:06 PM on July 21, 2012 [5 favorites]




Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
posted by Scientist at 2:32 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


But outside of zoos, does anyone want large animals with horns running around? Cows can be a handful as it is, I can only imagine what wild aurochs would be like.

Zoos. Zoos and National Parks. Zoos and National Parks and Wilderness Areas. Zoos and National Parks and Wilderness Areas and National Forests. Zoos and National Parks and Wilderness Areas and National Forests and Public Land. Zoos and National Parks and Wilderness Areas and National Forests and Public Land and as Raised for Livestock.

You know what? F zoos.

The few buffalo that we have out now in unfenced in areas seem to be doing just fine. Just, you know, not very numerous.
posted by alex_skazat at 2:43 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now some aurochs have a role in a new film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and are being played by Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.

CheeseDigestsAll: I found that very distracting at first. I was finally able to tell myself that it was what they'd look like in the imagination of a six-year-old girl, but I was initially going "that's no aurochs, that's a pig."

Cows don't look like cows on film. You gotta use horses pot bellied pigs.

What do you do if you want something that looks like a horse?
Ehh, usually we just tape a bunch of cats together.

posted by filthy light thief at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Besides, real cows are notoriously unprofessional actors.
posted by homunculus at 3:56 PM on July 21, 2012


I wrote a college paper on aurochs and the domestication of cattle for a Western Civ course. The title I gave my paper? "Old Moos."
posted by rikschell at 3:56 PM on July 21, 2012


So that's what an Aurochs is.
I thought it was just something GRRM put into Game of Thrones.
posted by Mezentian at 4:48 PM on July 21, 2012


Great post. I've seen superficial stuff about Bialowieza before, but never realized how constructed and curated this "primeval" forest is. Also quite interesting to think about the Nazi involvement and the ways in which the heritage of wildlife was so tied in to the mythology.
posted by bgribble at 6:14 PM on July 21, 2012


Cows are big, aggressive, easily startled idiots. Pigs are smaller, smart, easily trained and clean. I imagine that had a lot to do with it.

Years ago a discussion started at work about what happened to the wild cows.

Many years ago there was discovered a small herd of feral cows on some property a friend leased in CA, mostly longhorns that had escaped from someplace. After dealing with those lunatic animals I imagine most wild cattle succumbed pretty quickly to the invention of rifles. Something that charges you on sight is pretty easy to shoot after all.
posted by fshgrl at 8:27 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


For some reason that I can't remember I got sucked into a Wikipedia wormhole tonight and was looking at a list of national animals and hey what do you know! The national animal of Moldova is the aurochs.

I think that makes Moldova the only country on the list with a national animal that's extinct.
posted by mcmile at 10:50 PM on July 21, 2012


I think we should do this with Neandethals.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 4:30 AM on July 22, 2012


Can't they just import some gaur?
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:20 AM on July 22, 2012


Pallas Athena, I initially thought you were talking about guar.
posted by Scientist at 7:13 AM on July 22, 2012


Photo: a cave painting of an aurochs bull in Lascaux, France. This is a faithful photographic reproduction of an original two-dimensional work of art. The original image comprising the work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the European Union, the United States, Australia and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.

This made me laugh.


posted by bq at 9:35 AM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


tommasz: But outside of zoos, does anyone want large animals with horns running around? Cows can be a handful as it is, I can only imagine what wild aurochs would be like.

Longhorn cattle are an important breeding stock in Texas. Besides the tourist appeal and state symbol pride issue, they provide a source of genetic differentiation, and were developed in the first place for climates like northern Mexico and Texas.

Their horns typically span 5', and they are driven through the streets of towns without major problems.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:40 PM on July 22, 2012


You know what I love about this link? They aren't using the bullshit phrasing "bringing the breed back." I've heard that about several other extinct livestock breeds, and even species (adding some mammoth genes to elephant eggs, for instance), and it's all headline-grabbing shit.

They aren't making that claim. They're simply trying to breed back towards a similar appearance. Some of the behaviors are likely to follow, but we really won't know which are authentic to the Aurochs.

Bravo for accuracy.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:43 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Auroch - From Forgotten Worlds
posted by homunculus at 12:13 PM on August 8, 2012


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