Monday, 12 August 2013

How to milk an auroch -- part two

Sadly, the closest modern cattle to the auroch is likely now extinct. The species is the S.E. Asian Kouprey (Bos sueveli). The last specimen was sighted in 1983. It shares many features with the Auroch, such as sexual dimorphism and very similar horns.

The following video was taken from a film of 1951 and is the only film record of the species. The horns of the adult bulls show a strong resemblance to the animal depicted on the Celtic bucket mount.

It is believed by many to be descended from the Auroch, but the species appears to have separated from the auroch many thousands of years before the accounts of Herodotus and Caesar. Not long ago, it was commonly believed to have been a hybrid, but this paper from the Royal Society effectively dismisses the idea.

Although the Kouprey might be gone forever, efforts are underway, through the Tauros programme, to breed back the original auroch from primitive types of cattle, some of which might have strong genetic links to the original species. Among British cattle, the Highland Cattle is one of the species considered, and certainly, its horns are very similar to those on the bucket mount.

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