Story of the Aurochs (Life or Death – Fifth Installment) – Patrick Pineyro

The Bos primigenius is (was?) the ancestor of the domestic cattle.

Because the story of the Eurasian aurochs in particular is the story of Bos primigenius writ large, let us examine the evolution of the Eurasian aurochs specifically.

The Eurasian aurochs once ranged across the steppes and taigas of Europe, Siberia, and Central Asia. Though the Eurasian aurochs declined in numbers along with other megafauna species by the end of the Pleistocene Era, the Eurasian aurochs met its end when the Eurasian aurochs were domesticated into modern taurine cattle breeds around the 6th millennium BC in the Middle East, and possibly also at about the same time in the Far East. Aurochs continued to be widespread in Europe during the time of the Roman Empire, that same Roman Empire that expanded into Northern Africa, that same Roman Empire that intensely hunted and intensely captured the Atlas bear, that bear named for the Atlas Mountains which that bear inhabited until hunted to extinction by that same Roman Empire that hunted the Atlas bear as the Roman Empire expanded into Northern Africa, where said empire hunted the Atlas bear and used the Atlas bear as sport for many of the games of the Romans of that time, although the games in reality were arena fights where the Atlas bear was forced to fight against gladiators, lions, tigers, bears, and, indeed, to fight against the aurochs!

Excessive hunting, my humans of course, began then, and continued, until the aurochs was nearly extinct. By the 13th century, limited numbers of aurochs continued to exist in Eastern Europe. Hunting aurochs, then, became a privilege of what human beings denoted as “nobles,” and, later, “royal households.” The aurochs were not saved from extinction, and the last recorded live auroch, a female, died in 1627 in the Jaktorów Forest in Poland, and died, ironically, from natural causes.

Look at the domestic cattle and you will see the descendant of the aurochs, but you will never see the aurochs, at least not until human beings discover a method of somehow reviving extinct species, although most likely, the aurochs would not be the first in line for revival. That spot would likely go to Tyrannosaurus Rex, or the Dodo.