Image: Wikimedia Commons

Scientists are currently applying back-breeding genetic techniques to modern cows containing applicable DNA in order to restore the auroch — a massive bovine renowned in ancient history.

The auroch is the ancestor of modern domesticated species of zebu and taurine cows. They were 7ft tall, weighed more than 2,000 lbs, and formerly roamed extensive expanses across the marshlands and forests of the eastern hemisphere until their complete extinction in the early 1600s.

There is an imminent need for large bovine animals in current grazing ecosystems due to their ability to retain large, healthy grazing areas compared to the smaller, agriculturally developed cows of today. The provision of environmental stability comes equipped with an element that would assist people as well. Promoting a distinct attraction within the wildlife tourism industry would create economic growth in applicable areas and increase the viability of rural communities.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The first complete genome of an auroch was sequenced in 2015 from the fossil of a humerus bone. This information has been implemented into Operation Tauros, which has identified a group of the most closely related modern cows with the purpose of recreating the auroch through selective breeding.

Animals used in the program are chosen from primitive European heritage herds and selected for genetic similarity, then bred through multiple generations with the intent of restoring the auroch phenotype. Although without genetic engineering the genotype will be impossible to revive, scientists aim to achieve an animal as close as possible to the impressive ancient auroch.   

Researchers are getting closer to breeding an animal that’s almost identical to ancient aurochs. Image: The Tauros Programme

The project began in 2009 and has since been immensely successful, resulting in the birth of 300 calves in specified breeding sites around Europe.