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Giant cattle to be bred back from extinction

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  • Giant cattle to be bred back from extinction

    I wish them luck. Now, could someone pass a 30-oz filet, rare please...

    And I can only imagine the cost of the fencing needed to contain these things! Eight foot high w/ electric, anyone?

    Giant cattle to be bred back from extinction

    Aurochs were immortalised in prehistoric cave paintings and admired for their brute strength and "elephantine" size by Julius Caesar.

    But despite their having gone the way of the dodo and the woolly mammoth, there are plans to bring the giant animals back to life.

    The huge cattle with sweeping horns which once roamed the forests of Europe have not been seen for nearly 400 years.

    Now Italian scientists are hoping to use genetic expertise and selective breeding of modern-day wild cattle to recreate the fearsome beasts which weighed around 2,200lb and stood 6.5 feet at the shoulder.

    Breeds of large cattle which most closely resemble Bos primigenius, such as Highland cattle and the white Maremma breed from Italy, are being bred with each other in a technique known as "back-breeding".

    At the same time, scientists say they have for the first time created a map of the auroch's genome, so that they know precisely what type of animal they are trying to replicate.

    "We were able to analyse auroch DNA from preserved bone material and create a rough map of its genome that should allow us to breed animals nearly identical to aurochs," said team leader Donato Matassino, head of the Consortium for Experimental Biotechnology in Benevento, in the southern Campania region.

    "We've already made our first round of crosses between three breeds native to Britain, Spain and Italy. Now we just have to wait and see how the calves turn out."

    The last animal disappeared from the British Isles in the Iron Age and the breed was declared extinct in 1627 after a female died in the forests of Poland.

    Aurochs are depicted in ochre and charcoal in paintings found on the walls of cave galleries such as those at Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain. Caesar described them in The Gallic Wars as being "a little below the elephant in size" and a favourite hunting prey for wild Germanic tribesmen.

    Their abiding mystique means they remain as the symbol of several states and cities in Europe, having figured prominently in Teutonic folklore. In ancient times, killing an auroch was seen as a great demonstration of courage, with the horns turned into silver-clad drinking cups.

    The last time there was an attempt to recreate the animal was on the express orders of Hitler. The Nazis ordered a pair of German zoologists to recreate the auroch as part of the Third Reich's belief in racial superiority and eugenics.

    Herman Goering hoped to use the aurochs to populate a vast hunting reserve which he planned to create in the conquered territories of Eastern Europe.

    Many geneticists argue that though the Heck may resemble their ancient forebears, they will be genetically very different.

    "There are a number of rare breeds that have been brought back to life in recent years, such as the Cumberland pig," said Dr Claire Barber, from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. "But our view is that what has been recreated is something that looks like the old breed, but which is not genetically the same.

    "You would need to interbreed animals that are very close to the auroch in their genetic make-up. The closest you could find in Britain are two semi-feral breeds: the Chillingham and the Vaynol. If there are breeds which maintain many of the attributes of an auroch, then it could well be feasible. It's certainly a very exciting project."

    If the Italian-led project is successful, it will raise questions of what to do with an animal which boasts a size and temper akin to a tetchy rhinoceros.

    "Even the wild cattle we have today are very hard to handle and an auroch would be even more difficult," said Dr Barber. "Aurochs were significantly larger than any cattle in existence and they would be potentially dangerous.

    "There would be some serious management issues – to look after their teeth and feet, for instance, you might have to sedate them with dart guns.

    "You wouldn't want to try to milk one – that's assuming that the females produced milk when they didn't have calves."

  • #2
    That is really cool! Thanks for sharing. Now that would be the ultimate grass fed beef!

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by gieriscm View Post

      "Even the wild cattle we have today are very hard to handle and an auroch would be even more difficult," said Dr Barber.
      Anyone else kind of shiver at that thought since the things are going to be how big again?

      Interesting thought though. Thanks for sharing.
      "Radar, the man's ex-cavalry: if he sees four flies having a meeting, he knows they're talking about a horse!" Cptn. BJ Hunnicutt, M*A*S*H Season 4, Episode "Dear Mildred"

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      • #4
        Actually, this has already been done with Heck cattle in Germany. I think others have tried to reconstruct the aurochs as well.

        There was quite a lot of pleistocene megafauna that was huge - giant elk, armadillos the size of Volkswagons, etc. Check out the DVD called Walking With Prehistoric Beasts if this kind of thing appeals to you.

        Comment


        • #5
          OP--good info

          Not to be a fun hater, but it sounds like a management nightmare. The article states the cattle are hard to manage and I imagine they are not designed for our current grasses, restricted turnout, etc.--will be bad for the environment they are in (just a hunch--I guess I don't know for sure).

          I guess I'm not 100% sure I see the point (beyond "because we can").

          Didn't they rent Jurassic Park before they started?
          DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            I would guess that they're only hoping for a small number of zoo specimens, not vast herds of the things. We really don't have room for them anymore in their wild state.

            Comment


            • #7
              what's the point of this? they won't really be "aurochs" unless they try to clone some from old aurochs DNA. They'll just be "looks kind of like them". Would be easier to just build models, they eat less.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Druid Acres View Post
                We really don't have room for them anymore in their wild state.
                Hah! Google, "re-wilding".

                Interesting stuff. There are even scientists who want to bring back sabre toothed tigers and mastadons - to the US.

                Boy - and I thought hitting a deer with my truck was bad....
                Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                -Rudyard Kipling

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                • #9
                  2,200 lbs isn't any bigger than a big ox and certainly nowhere near "a little below the elephant in size" (unless whoever said that had been looking at really little elephants).


                  Originally posted by gieriscm View Post
                  "You wouldn't want to try to milk one – that's assuming that the females produced milk when they didn't have calves."
                  A guy that wants to take on a project that ambitious might want to rectify his ignorance on how milk happens before going on to the big stuff...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    And speaking of oxen, maybe the neo-aurochs would look something like this.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Why breed back the Tarpan horse? Why not?

                      You can't just breed a couple for zoos--you need to have a decent population to avoid genetic bottlenecking (the smaller your breeding population, the more diffcult management is.) Also just because it's in a zoo doesnt' mean it can suddenly live in a teeny stall if that's not what it's suited to. They would have to be managed on the order of 'tame' bison herds, which at least in the US can be done with the right fencing and keeping your distance most of the time. It wouldn't actually even be as big a problem as maintaining elephants in North America and Europe (there's a huge dangerous animal that ideally needs a LOT of space, otherwise it runs the risk of taking out its stir-crazy on convenient humans.)

                      Now, if someone wanted to recreate, say, Hyracotherium, or the Cave Bears or the Giant Short-Faced Bears, then possibly we need to reconsider what exactly the point would be. (Unless we need the bears to eat the aurochs. Joke! That was a joke!)
                      Author Page
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                      • #12
                        Maybe a mondo-kool project and maybe a candidate for a Golden Fleece Award (if public moneys are involved).

                        But ya gotta ask: why? What's the point beyond "we can, so we should"?

                        Maybe we should worry about breeding hardy, small cows that will do on the poor forrage found in Third World countries. I'm sure folks in places like Haiti would appreciate that.

                        G.
                        Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          They would probably be quite manageable after the Seven Games with a nylon halter and orange carrot stick.

                          But bison breeders have a heck of a time keeping them in, too. They need strong fences.
                          Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Humans have been amusing themselves with breeding experiments for thousands of years.

                            Take, for example, lap dogs. Breeds designed for our amusement. And they don't dress out to much meat.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Guilherme View Post
                              Maybe a mondo-kool project and maybe a candidate for a Golden Fleece Award (if public moneys are involved).

                              But ya gotta ask: why? What's the point beyond "we can, so we should"?

                              G.
                              we'd like to see Chianina crossed on some Longhorns and then back to Highland Cattle

                              horns,hair and height all on one nice package

                              Tamara in TN
                              Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                              I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

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                              • #16
                                Rodawn is in Alberta. Our friend had a call from another friend. Some of their bison had got out, they phoned their friends to come and hunt them as it was easier to shoot them than chase them back! Glug.
                                Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Rodawn is in Alberta. Our friend had a call from another friend. Some of their bison had got out, they phoned their friends to come and hunt them as it was easier to shoot them than chase them back! Your neighbours, maybe?
                                  Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Druid Acres View Post
                                    And speaking of oxen, maybe the neo-aurochs would look something like this.
                                    My thoughts exactly. I saw some of the chianina oxen at a fair once, and they are mindblowingly large. Legs like tree trunks. Huge.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                                      Rodawn is in Alberta. Our friend had a call from another friend. Some of their bison had got out, they phoned their friends to come and hunt them as it was easier to shoot them than chase them back! Your neighbours, maybe?
                                      Um, that just happend in our neighborhood. Not sure if it was your friends as it is a common end to buffalo getting out.

                                      We used to breed Blonde d'Aquitaine
                                      http://www.bovin.qc.ca/bovins_files/..._aquitaine.jpg

                                      The bulls were way over 2000pds and some of the females were close. So the giant cows would be taller, but some of the breeds today come in around the same weight. But with 10,000 years of selection for domestic use.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        [QUOTE]
                                        Originally posted by stoicfish View Post
                                        Um, that just happend in our neighborhood. Not sure if it was your friends as it is a common end to buffalo getting out.

                                        We used to breed Blonde d'Aquitaine
                                        http://www.bovin.qc.ca/bovins_files/..._aquitaine.jpg
                                        no WAY...!!! now I am jealous...I always thought that they were great

                                        Tamara in TN
                                        Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                                        I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

                                        Comment

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