Aurochs (Bos primigenius) - wiki
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[Photo] Espa??ol: Uro (Bos taurus primigenius), agriotipo de las vacas y toros dom??sticos. Original caption: "Augsburger Abbildung des Urs (echten Auerochsen)." Translation (partly): "Augsburg depiction of an Auerochs.". Originator: Unkown. Source: Brehms Tierleben, Small Edition 1927
The aurochs or urus (Bos primigenius) is a very large, extinct type of cattle, originally prevalent in Europe. The animal's original scientific name, Bos primigenius, was meant as a Latin translation of the German term Auerochse or Urochs, which was (possibly incorrectly) interpreted as literally meaning "primeval ox" or "proto-ox". This scientific name is now considered invalid by ITIS, who classify aurochs under Bos taurus, the same species as domestic cattle. However, in 2003, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature "conserved the usage of 17 specific names based on wild species, which are pre-dated by or contemporary with those based on domestic forms", confirming Bos primigenius for the Aurochs. Taxonomists who consider domesticated cattle a subspecies of the wild Aurochs should use B. primigenius taurus; the name B. taurus remains available for domestic cattle where it is considered to be a separate species.
English-language nomenclature variations
The word aurochs (IPA:/'a????????ks/ or IPA:/'????????ks/) comes to English from German, where its normative spelling and declension today is Auerochs/Auerochse (sg), Auerochsen (gen), Auerochsen (pl). The declension in English varies, being either aurochs (sg), aurochs (pl) or aurochs (sg), aurochses (pl). The declension auroch (sg), aurochs (pl) is acknowledged by MWU, but it is merely a back-formation analogous to pea-from-pease that misinterprets the singular form's ending in the /s/ sound (being cognate to ox/Ochs(e)). The use in English of the plural form aurochsen is not acknowledged by AHD4 or MWU, but is very sensible, being directly parallel to the German plural and analogous (and cognate) to English ox (sg), oxen (pl).
The word urus (IPA:/'j??????s/) comes to English from Latin, but came to Latin from Germanic origins. It declines in English as urus (sg), uruses (pl). The Germanic aurochs itself is from the combination of the urus root with Ochs(e), "ox". Although the aur-/ur- syllable has often been interpreted as being cognate with Germanic ur- meaning "original/proto-", it may have come from another root referring to water.
The words aurochs, urus, and wisent have all been used synonymously in English. However, this usage is careless, as the (extinct) aurochs/urus is a completely separate species from the (still-extant) wisent.
According to the Paleontologisk Museum, University of Oslo, aurochs evolved in India some two million years ago, migrated into the Middle East and further into Asia, and reached Europe about 250,000 years ago. They were once considered a distinct species from modern European cattle (Bos taurus), but more recent taxonomy has rejected this distinction. The South Asian domestic cattle, or zebu, descended from a different group of aurochs at the edge of the Thar Desert in India; this would explain zebu resistance to drought. Domestic yak, gayal and Javan cattle do not descend from aurochs. Modern cattle have become much smaller than their wild forebears: the height at the withers of a domesticated cow is about 1.4 meters, whereas an aurochs could reach about 1.75 meters. Aurochs also had several features rarely seen in modern cattle, such as lyre-shaped horns set at a forward angle, a pale stripe down the spine, and sexual dimorphism of coat color. Males were black with a pale eel stripe down the spine, while females and calves were reddish. They were also known to have very aggressive temperaments and killing one was seen as a great act of courage in ancient cultures.
At one time there existed three aurochs subspecies, namely Bos primigenius namadicus (Falconer, 1859) that occurred in India, the Bos primigenius mauretanicus (Thomas, 1881) from North Africa and naturally the Bos primigenius primigenius (Bojanus, 1827) from Europe and the Middle East. Only the European subspecies has survived until recent times.
Domestication and extinction
Domestication of the aurochs began in the southern Caucasus and northern Mesopotamia from about the 6th millennium BC, while genetic evidence suggests that aurochs were independently domesticated in northern Africa and in India. Domestication caused dramatic changes to the physiology of the creatures, to the extent that domestic cattle have been regarded as a separate species (see above).
Genetic analysis of aurochs bones and of modern cattle has provided many insights about the aurochs. Though aurochs became extinct in Britain during the Bronze age, analysis of bones from aurochs that lived contemporaneously with domesticated cattle there showed no genetic contribution to modern breeds. As a result, modern European cattle are now thought to be descended directly from the Near East domestication process. Indian cattle (zebu), although domesticated eight to ten thousand years ago, are related to aurochs which diverged from the Near Eastern ones some 200,000 years ago. The African cattle are thought to descend from aurochs more closely related to the Near Eastern ones. The Near East and African aurochs groups are thought to have split some 25,000 years ago, probably 15,000 years before domestication. The "Turano-Mongolian" type of cattle now found in Northern China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan may represent a fourth domestication event (and a third event among Bos taurus???type aurochs). This group may have diverged from the Near East group some 35,000 years ago. Whether these separate genetic populations would have equated to separate subspecies is unclear.
The original range of the aurochs was from the British Isles, to Africa, the Middle East, India and central Asia. By the 13th century A.D., the aurochs' range was restricted to Poland, Lithuania, Moldavia, Transylvania and East Prussia. The right to hunt large animals on any land was restricted to nobles and gradually to the royal household. As the population of aurochs declined, hunting ceased but the royal court still required gamekeepers to provide open fields for the aurochs to graze in. The gamekeepers were exempted from local taxes in exchange for their service and a decree made poaching an aurochs punishable by death. In 1564, the gamekeepers knew of only 38 animals, according to the royal survey. The last recorded live aurochs, a female, died in 1627 in the Jaktor??w Forest, Poland. The skull was later taken by the Swedish Army and is now the property of Livrustkammaren in Stockholm.
In the 1920s two German zookeepers, the brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck, attempted to breed the aurochs back into existence (see breeding back) from the domestic cattle that were their descendants. Their plan was based on the conception that a species is not extinct as long as all its genes are still present in a living population. The result is the breed called Heck Cattle, 'Recreated Aurochs', or 'Heck Aurochs', which bears an incomplete resemblance to what is known about the physiology of the wild aurochs.
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