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Scientists Plan to 'De-Extinct' a Big Ancient Cow -- How to Bring Back the Auroch?

Jan 10, 2017 05:47 AM EST

Scientists are now working on what was believed to be impossible: bring back a huge ancient cow species called the aurochs. These roamed Europe for a few thousands of years until the last one died in the Jaktorow Forest, Poland, in 1627. They are approximately 7 feet tall and weigh around 1,000 kilograms. 

According to Science Alert, the efforts to bring back the Auroch have been in the works since 2009. European science teams, along with two programs, are attempting to revive a version of them through breeding.

One of them is Operation Taurus. Telegraph notes that the program has selectively bred 300 calves with aurochs DNA through something called back-breeding. They selected breeds of cattle which have certain auroch characteristics, and each generation of calves may get closer to the original aurochs in appearance, behavior and genetic makeup. 

There are a lot of cattle breeds that the scientists are using which have characteristics closest to the aurochs. These include the Maremmana from Italy and the Podolica and Busha breeds from the Balkans.

Donato Matassino from the Operation Taurus said they have the highest percentage of aurochs genetic material. Though he said we may not be able to create aurochs that are 100-percent like the original.

Another one is the Taurus Project in Portugal, which has also been cross-breeding species in an attempt to recreate the species.

The two programs are part of the Rewilding Europe project. According to its website, it aims to reintroduce Europe's lost, wild species that will boost both tourism and help the environment.

Wild cattle are one of the species that shaped the landscape of the region, and those big grazing animals keep patches of land open and create variety in the landscape. This enables thousands of species of plants, animals and insects to thrive. 

Aurochs appear often in cave paintings all across Europe. This suggests they are a huge part of the European agricultural landscape.  Other members of the de-extinction list are wooly mammoths and moas. 

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