“Aurochs” The ancestor of all domesticated cattle around 10,000 years ago
Since their do mestication in the Neolithic, cattle have belonged to our cultural heritage. The reconstruction of their history is an active field of research that contributes to our understanding of human history. Archeological data are now supplemented by analyses of modern and ancient samples of cattle with DNA markers of maternal, paternal, or autosomal inheritance. The most recent ɢᴇɴᴇᴛɪᴄ data suggest that maternal lineages of taurine cattle originated in the Fertile Crescent with a possible contribution of South-European wild cattle populations, while zebu cattle originate from the Indus Valley. Subsequently, cattle accompanied human migrations, which led to the dispersal of domestic cattle of taurine, indicine, or mixed origin over Asia, Africa, Europe, and the New World. This has resulted in their adaptation to different environments and considerable variation in appearance and performance.
Domestication of the auroch, a type of large wild cattle which evolved in India about two million years ago, and migrated to Asia, and North Africa, reaching Europe about 250,000 years ago, is thought to have occurred in several parts of the world about 6000 BCE.
Resembling oversized cattle, this species used to be one of the most widespread grazing animals on the planet thousands of years ago. But, due to ᴏᴠᴇʀʜᴜɴᴛɪɴɢ, they are now ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛ. The last aurochs ᴅɪᴇᴅ in Poland in 1627.
The Aurochs plays a very important role in conservation organization’s plans to rewild huge tracts of land in Europe. Wilderness can only be created and sustained by wild animals. “One of the key species for Europe was the Aurochs. This mighty beast once roamed the forests and plains of Europe and was revered by men. Only very recently it ᴅɪᴇᴅ out in Poland, but their genes are still present in the cattle breeds of Europe,” adds Henri Kerkdijk-Otten and continues: “There is just one slight problem; the aurochs doesn’t ᴇxɪsᴛ anymore. What if it were possible to recreate something that is seemingly ʟᴏsᴛ? After all, European cattle breeds are the descendants of the Aurochs. The most important question is how to put the puzzle together from all the scattered pieces?”
To investigate this, Project Tauros did proceed by examining old and authentic European cattle breeds on known aurochs characteristics. The first outcome was that the experts from Project Tauros identified some authentic and also very ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛᴇɴᴇᴅ cattle breeds.
Gayal or mithun, the domestic form of gaur (Bos gaurus), it is distributed in Assam and Myanmar and it is used mainly for ceremonial purposes. About 2500 years BC a domestic form of the wild yak (Bos mutus) was selected and now occupies a large region on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and adjacent areas above 3000 m
Recent mtDNA analyses, combined with archaeological evidence, indicate buffalo domestication in South China and/or Indochina around 2000 BC. The domestication of the swamp buffalo coincides with the start of the rice cultivation where a strong animal for ploughing the rice fields was necessary.
Finally river buffalo, another phenotype derived by wild water buffalo ( Bubalus arnee ), has been domesticated about 2500 years BC in the Indus Valley. It seems that these animals were not known in the Roman Empire, which indicates that river buffalo arrived in the western regions after its domestication.
As human civilization spread, the species gradually ᴅɪᴇᴅ ᴏᴜᴛ over most of its habitat and only survived in Eastern Europe until the 17th century. The aurochs obtained all of their nutrients from grazing huge expanses of land. The most common foods they ate were grasses, twigs, and even acorns. Aurochs had a four-chambered stomach that contained various bacteria to help them ʙʀᴇᴀᴋ down and digest the tough cellulose of plant matter. Each compartment had its own specialized task. Food may spend dozens of hours in the animal’s stomach, during which it is regurgitated, chewed over, and swallowed again multiple times.
Only the most ꜰᴇʀᴏᴄɪᴏᴜs ᴘʀᴇᴅᴀᴛᴏʀs, such as wolves and prehistoric large cats, dared to ᴛᴀᴋᴇ on the adult aurochs. Their massive size offered them a huge degree of protection against ᴘʀᴇᴅᴀᴛᴏʀs. However, young calves were ᴠᴜʟɴᴇʀᴀʙʟᴇ to being ᴘɪᴄᴋᴇᴅ ᴏꜰꜰ if they wandered too far from the herd. Sɪᴄᴋ adults left behind by the herd also made an easy target for hungry ᴘʀᴇᴅᴀᴛᴏʀs.