The first aurochs born in the reserve for large herbivores came into the world shortly before noon today

2016 - 04 - 20
The first aurochs born in the reserve for large herbivores came into the world shortly before noon today

The first aurochs calf was born today in the Milovice large herbivore reserve, located close to Prague, shortly before noon. The birth started at 11:00 and ended at 11:30, and the calf immediately tried to stand on its feet.

At the time of delivery, the mother was alone, several dozen metres from her herd. By 12:00, the calf had been cleaned by its mother, and had tried to suckle some milk from her. It succeeded after about fifteen minutes

While giving birth in wild horses without human assistance has been tried and tested by thousands of years of development, aurochs died out in the 17th century, and scientists have been reverse breeding them since 2008. Second and third generation animals live in Milovice, and the reverse breeding process will take about fifty years.

We are glad that the female had no problems giving birth. “Nine foals have been attracting the attention of visitors so far, and now people can see a reverse-bred aurochs calf, too,” said Dalibor Dostal, director of European Wildlife conservation organization.
The herd of reverse-bred aurochs in Milovice is the first in the whole of central and eastern Europe. In October last year, one male and five females came to Milovice from the Netherlands, where the local Taurus Foundation operating within the TaurOs project cooperates on aurochs breeding with scientists from Wageningen University. The aim of the project is to create an animal whose physiognomy, colour and ability to survive in nature precisely corresponds to the original aurochs.

Aurochs are the ancestors of domesticated cattle. The bull is characterised by a black coat with a white eel stripe on its back. The females have a reddish brown coat. The animal typically has white around its nostrils and muzzle, and ivory-coloured horns with black tips. The last aurochs died in the Jaktorow game preserve in Poland in 1627. It spent its last days in the local royal game reserve after the species had been wiped out from the wild.

Reverse breeding of the aurochs was attempted in Germany between the world wars. However, the experiment was not successful as the animals were not true to the original aurochs both in appearance and behaviour. They showed greater aggression due to the fact that the breeding included Spanish fighting cattle. It resulted in Heck cattle, which can sometimes be seen in zoos and private studs. Due to differences from the original species, it is not considered a replacement for the original aurochs. This is the reason that reverse breeding commenced from scratch in 2008. This time, it was carried out based on science and the use of genetic research.

The Milovice nature reserve is the first place in the world where all three species of large European ungulates have been living since last year: European bison, wild horses and aurochs.

Photo: Michal Köpping

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