In October this year, the third recent book on the aurochs was presented at the World Wildlife Congress in Salamanca, Spain. It was written by Ronald Goderie, initiator of the Tauros Programme, Henri Kerkdijk-Otten, former manager of the project, Wouter Helmer, managing director of ARK Nature and Staffan Widstrand, manager of Wild Wonders of Europe and published by Roodbont Publishers B.V.
The book is written more in mass-market style (and I guess also to attract possible sponsors) than technical, what makes it easy to read for starters. The book gives you general information on the biology of the aurochs and tells everything important about its appearance: colour, sexual dimorphism, body shape and proportions, horns, skull. It makes clear that the Aurochs is similar to domestic cattle in looks, but also showed some clear differences.
The book emphasizes the impact on the European culture that aurochs and cattle had, especially during the antiquary. Aurochs (or actually unspecific bulls) were in the focus of numerous legends and cults, and aurochs also were used in roman arena fights.
The ecologic context of the species is portrayed as well. It gives you an introduction into what species it shared its habitat with, during the Pleistocene as much as the Holocene. It shows that Europe was inhabited by a number of large grazers which are now either extinct or confined to single nature reserves – the book claims that the masses of herbivores in Europe once were comparable with hat we find in the African Serengeti today, although this picture is questioned in the literature. In fact, the book portrays the very controversial megaherbivore hypothesis* and overkill hypothesis as consensual mainstream opinions, but in fact there is still much debate about these.
* The megaherbivore hypothesis suggests that megaherbivores play a crucial role in shaping natural landscapes and create open land where otherwise forests would grow.
The book has a lot of nice pictures, also including two artworks of mine and of Tom Hammond (I am going to cover his aurochs art here on this blog as well). I am also very fond of the wonderful illustrations by Jeroen Helmer, which are very inspiring for me. I love the painting down below because it shows probably all aspects of the aurochs’ daily behaviour repertoire.
|Aurochs and their natural behaviour, © Jeroen Helmer|
“The Aurochs – Born to be wild” also introduces the Iberian primitive breeds. I think it is very good that it does not spend too much attention on Heck cattle but instead focuses on less-derived or feral breeds as those living animals closest to the aurochs.
It gives a good overview on what Tauros Project is doing; still not the “material and methods” presentation I’d like to see, but certainly useful. It also reveals a bit of the results of all the genetic research that is done under the frame of the Tauros Programme that will hopefully bring us a better view on primitive cattle phylogeny, how much of the aurochs is left and where the local hybridization events with wild aurochs happened. I actually hoped to find some recent photos of Tauros crossbreeds, but the book only shows Manolo Uno. However, I was very happy to find the photo of one of his sons at the end of the book. It’s Maremmana x (Pajuna x Maremmana). It’s clearly visible that this bull calf is going to be grayish as an adult (there was a 1:1 probability that it inherits the dilution allele from its father so this F2 is probably homozygous for this feature), but maybe it will grow larger horns than its father. There are about 150 Tauros crossbreeds now, unfortunately only few of them were presented to the public yet.
All in all, it’s definitely worth buying this book if you are interested in the aurochs, European big game or rewilding. You can purchase it here.