Its curved horns, huge bulk and irascible temperament made it a formidable foe for prehistoric hunters, but scientists are edging closer to a long-held dream of bringing back from extinction one of Europe’s most impressive beasts – the aurochs.
The creature, the ancestor of modern cattle, once roamed tangled forests and sodden marshlands from Britain to the Balkans and beyond to Asia and North Africa.
But it disappeared from the British Isles in the Iron Age and was driven to extinction in the rest of Europe by the 17th century, with the last specimen dying in the Jaktorow Forest in Poland in 1627.
Now researchers are working to bring it back to life through a process known as back-breeding, which entails selectively mating existing breeds of “primitive” cattle which retain much of the ancient aurochs’ DNA. full story