Aurochs

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The aurochs (Bos primigenius) is an ancient European mammal of the Bovidae family. The term "Aurochs" is German for "primeval ox," or "proto-ox", and the latin name would translate similarly.

It was closely related to the Bison, which nearly became extinct in the 20th century, but can now be found in several refuges and wilderness parks. Most or all modern cattle are direct descendants of the the aurochs; the South Asian domestic cattle, the zebus may be descended from a related species, the gaur.

The last recorded instance of the aurochs was the report of the death of "the last" aurochs, hunted and killed by poachers in 1627 in the Jaktorów Forest, Poland.

The aurochs are depicted in many cave paintings such as those found at Lascaux and Livernon in France. In these and many other early art-works, the aurochs are attributed with possessing magical qualities. Early carvings of the aurochs have also been found.

In the 1920s two German zookeepers -- brothers by the names of Heinz and Lutz Heck -- attempted to breed the aurochs back into existence from the domestic cattle that were their descendants. The result is the "Recreated Aurochs" or "Heck Aurochs", which bears a physical resemblance to what is known about the wild aurochs. The major difference is in size -- a recreated aurochs bull is not much larger than the bull of most breeds of domestic cattle, while wild aurochs bulls are believed to have often cleared 1000 kilograms: half the size of a rhinoceros.

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