With a recorded shoulder height of more than 70 inches and horns poking out to more than 62 inches. The aurochs are considered to be the wildest ancestor of modern domestic cattle. And, if that wasn’t enough. There are one of the largest herbivores in modern times.
Both “aur” and “ur” are Germanic or Celtic words meaning wild ox. The Latin word “urus” was used for wild ox since the Gallic Wars and probably evolved. The old high German words ūr meaning “primordial” and ohso for “ox” were compounded to ūrohso, which became the early modern aurochs. Its obvious many people, especially northerners, were dependent on the aurochs for our survival.
Behavior and ecology:
Most aurochs were around 5 feet long, and weighed one ton. They lived longer than modern domestic cattle, and were capable of speeds around 30 mph.
Aurochs lived singly or in smaller groups during the summer but formed larger heards in winter. Social status was gained through displays and fights, in which both cows and bulls engaged. It was probably relating to natural selection, and using there giant horns. Because of there hypsodont jaws, the aurochs were big grazers, with a food selection very similar to domesticated cattle feeding on grass, twigs and acorns.
Mating season was in September, and calves were born in spring. The bulls would sometimes have severe fights. In Jakorow forest, Poland, there’s evidence that shows the ridiculous bull fighting led to death. Later in the seasons, aurochs ate up large amounts of food for winter, and got fatter and shinier than the rest of the year. Calves stayed with their mother until they were strong enough to join and keep up with the herd on the feeding grounds. They were vulnerable to predation by grey wolf (canis lupus), brown bear (ursus arctos), and others. While healthy adult aurochs probably did not have to fear predators. The lion (panthera leo), tiger (panthera tigris) and hyena (crocuta crocuta) were likely predators in pre-neolithic times and including Africa. According to historical descriptions, and writing. The aurochs were swift and could be very aggressive. Adult aurochs, were not afraid of neolithic humans. Just look at there bull horn size.
In 2003, the international commission on zoological nomenclature placed bos primigenius on the official list of specific names in zooology.
Three aurochs subspecies were recognized:
▪ The Eurasian aurochs (B. p. primigenius) was part of the Pleistocene megafauna in Eurasia.
▪ The Indian aurochs (B. p. namadicus) lived on the Indian subcontinent.
▪ The North African aurochs (B. p. mauritanicus) lived north of the Sahara.
Modern cattle breeds exhibit aurochs features:
The dark color and light eel stripe along the back of bulls,
the lighter color of cows, and
an aurochs-like horn shape
-On India’s southern deccan plateau, acheulean layers in hunasagi yielded aurochs bones with lithic tool cut marks.
-At the Nesher Ramla homo site in Israel, an aurochs bone with cut marks were found in a middle paleolithic dated at about 120,000 years ago.
-An archaeological excavation in Israel yielding evidence of a large feast 12,000 years ago. It found evidence of the natufian culture, and a great feast, in which three aurochs were eaten. It even appeared to be held in conjunction with the burial of an older woman, presumably of some rarity and social status.
-Auroch petroglyphs found in gobustan rock art in azerbaijan date to the upper paleolithic to neolithic times.
-Aurochs bones and skulls found at the settlements of Mureybet, Hallan Çemi and Çayönü indicate that people stored and shared food in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B culture.
-In necropolis Sidon, and Lebanon, dating to around 3,700 years BP; aurochs was buried together with numerous animals, humans and food.
-Found in Harappa and Mohenjo-daro show an animal with curved horns like an aurochs, and included a seal from mohenjo-daro seals dating to the indus valley civilization.
-Western caucasus and the maykop cultures made aurochs figurines.
-Aurochs are denoted in the Akkadian words rīmu and rēmu, both used by rulers such as Naram-Sin of Akkad, Tiglath-Pileser I and Shalmaneser III; and in Mesopotamia. Aurochs symbolised power and sexual potency, was an epithet of the gods Enlil and Shamash. They denoted prowess as an epithet of the king Sennacherib and the hero Gilgamesh (in christian bible). In ugaritic texts, wild bulls are frequently referred to in as a hunt and sacrificed to the god Baal.
-Constructed in the 6th century BC. An aurochs depicted on Babylon’s Ishtar Gate.
-Around 16-15,000 years ago, relief on the ishtar gate display at the pergamon museum petroglyphs depict aurochs found in the upper Nile valley. They are the oldest engravings found to date in Africa.
-Aurochs are depicted in ancient Egyptian hunting scenes. In reliefs, in a tomb at Thebes, dating to the 20th century BC. And, the youngest depiction of aurochs in ancient egypt are the mortuary temple of Ramesses III, at Medinet Habu, dating to around 1175 BC.
-Dating to 36,000 and 21,000 years ago, aurochs are widely represented in Paleolithic cave paintings, in Chauvet and Lascaux caves in southern France.
-In Italy, two paleolithic rock engravings in the calabrian romito cave depict aurochs. Palaeolithic engravings showing aurochs are also found in the grotta del genovese in Levanzo.
-From Gravettian to the Magdalenian cultures, upper paleolithic rock engravings and paintings depict the aurochs.
-From France, Luxemburg, Germany, Netherlands, England and Denmark auroch bones were found with lithic tool and cut marks.
-Mesolithic settlements by the Narva and Emajõgi rivers in Estonia also yielded aurochs bones.
-A cup found in the Greek site of Vaphio shows a hunting scene, where people tried to capture aurochs. One of the bulls throws the hunter on the ground while attacking the second with its horns. The cup seems to date to Mycenaean Greece.
-Greeks and Paeonians hunters used aurochs and their huge horns as trophies, cups for wine, offerings to the gods, heroes and in colosseum and amphitheatre battles.
The ox mentioned by Samus, Philippus of Thessalonica and Antipater as killed by Philip V of Macedon on the foothills of mountain Orvilos, was actually an auroch; Philip offered the horns, which were 41 in long and the skin to a temple of Hercules.
-Aurochs were described in Julius Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico.
-Romans used Aurochs horns as horns.
-In the Nibelungenlied, Sigurd killed four aurochs.
-Many aurochs horn sheaths are preserved today. During the middle ages, aurochs horns were used as drinking horns including the horn of the last bull.
-The aurochs drinking horn at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge was engraved with the college’s coat of arms in the 17th century.
-An aurochs head with a star between its horns and Christian iconographic represent the official coat of arms for Moldavia and has been perpetuated for centuries.
Most aurochs were hunted with arrows or spears, nets and hunting dogs. Prehistoric folklore believed the hair on there foreheads cut from the living animal; increased the fertility of women. Belts were made out of this to help.
When the aurochs were slaughtered, the os cordis was extracted from the heart. This bone was believed to create mystique and magical powers.
In eastern Europe, the aurochs left traces in expressions like “behaving like an aurochs” for a drunken person behaving badly, and “a bloke like an aurochs” for big and strong people.
Last heard of around around 1600 In Jakatro forest, Poland:
It was believed the bulls started to increase during the pleistocene in Asia. It was only in modern times they started decreasing. The last one died in 1627 in Jaktorów forest in Poland.
RIP Aurochs (Bos primigenius).
Bibliography: Wikipedia contributors. (2001, November 9). Aurochs. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurochs
Upadhyay, M., Chen, W., Lenstra, J. A., Goderie, C. R. J., MacHugh, D. E., Park, S. K., Magee, D. A., Matassino, D., Ciani, F., Megens, H., Van Arendonk, J., & Groenen, M. a. M. (2017). Genetic origin, admixture and population history of aurochs (Bos primigenius) and primitive European cattle. Heredity, 118(2), 169–176. https://doi.org/10.1038/hdy.2016.79
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2023, April 1). Aurochs | extinct mammal. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/animal/aurochs