species of mammal, the aurochs (+ cattle, including zebus)

The aurochs,[1] or urus, (Bos primigenius) was a large species of cattle. The aurochs used to be common in Europe. It is extinct now.[2] It was a wild animal, not a domesticated animal. The extinct aurochs/urus is a not the same species as the wisent (the European bison).[3]

Temporal range: Late Pliocene to Holocene
Scientific classification
B. primigenius
Binomial name
Bos primigenius

Bos primigenius primigenius
  (Bojanus, 1827)
Bos primigenius namadicus
  (Hugh Falconer, 1859)
Bos primigenius mauretanicus
  (Thomas, 1881)

Aurochs skeleton in Denmark.

According to the Paleontologisk Museum, University of Oslo, aurochs developed in India some two million years ago, came into the Middle East and farther into Asia, and reached Europe about 250,000 years ago.[4] People once thought that they were a different species from modern European cattle (Bos taurus). Today, people think that aurochs and modern cattle are the same species.

Modern cattle have become much smaller than their wild ancestors: the height of a large domesticated cow is about 1.5 meters (5 feet, 15 hands),[5] while aurochs were about 1.75 meters (5.75 feet, 17 hands).

Aurochs also had several features not often seen in modern cattle, such as lyre-shaped horns set at a forward angle, a pale stripe down the spine, and different color according to the gender. Males were black with a pale stripe down the spine, while females and calves were reddish (these colours are still found in a few domesticated cattle breeds, such as Jersey cattle). Aurochs were also known to have very aggressive behaviour, and killing one was seen as an act of courage in ancient cultures.

Subspecies change

At one time there were three aurochs subspecies, namely Bos primigenius namadicus (Falconer, 1859) that occurred in India, the Bos primigenius mauretanicus (Thomas, 1881) from North Africa and the Bos primigenius primigenius (Bojanus, 1827) from Europe and the Middle East. Only the European subspecies survived until recent times.

Notes change

  1. The word is both singular and plural.
  2. The animal's first scientific name, Bos primigenius, was meant as a Latin translation of the German term Auerochse or Urochs, which was they thought meant "primeval ox" or "proto-ox". Today, ITIS say this name is wrong. They classify aurochs under Bos taurus, the same species as domestic cattle. 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" ( Archived 2010-03-12 at the Wayback Machine) 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.
  3. The word Aurochs (English pronunciation: /ˈaʊrɒks/ or /ˈɔrɒks/) comes to English from German. The use in English of the plural form aurochsen is the same as the German plural and just like English ox (sg), oxen (pl). The word urus (/ˈjʊərəs/) comes to English from Latin, but came to Latin from Germanic origins. AHD4, headword urus. The words aurochs, urus, and wisent  have all been used synonymously in English. AHD4, headwords aurochs, urus, wisent. MWU, headwords aurochs, urus, wisent.
  4. "Bos primigenius". Archived from the original on 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  5. Height Archived 2007-10-15 at the Wayback Machine of Holstein cows

References change

  • American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition (AHD4). Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Headwords aurochs, urus, wisent.
  • Bunzel-Drüke, M. 2001. Ecological substitutes for wild horse (Equus ferus Boddaert, 1785 = E. przewalslii Poljakov, 1881) and Aurochs (Bos primigenius Bojanus, 1827). Natur- und Kulturlandschaft, Höxter/Jena, 4, 10 p. AFKP. Online pdf (298 kB) Archived 2006-03-09 at the Wayback Machine
  • Garfield, Richard van. 1995. Magic the gathering: gatherer search: Aurochs.
  • International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. 2003. Opinion 2027 (Case 3010). Usage of 17 specific names based on wild species which are pre-dated by or contemporary with those based on domestic animals (Lepidoptera, Osteichthyes, Mammalia): conserved. Bull.Zool.Nomencl., 60:81-84.