Sunday, 5 January 2014

Tom Hammond's aurochs art

Tom Hammond is a professional artist who is, just like me, interested in doing aurochs life restorations as anatomically correct as possible. We do it in a similar way by working directly with photos of skulls or mounted skeletons of well-preserved aurochs specimen, and looking for living animals that serve as best anatomic comparison. However, he is a much better artist than I will ever be and his style has inspired and is still inspiring me a lot. He has produced some of the most accurate aurochs reconstructions available on the web that I want to show you below. All rights of these images belong to Tom Hammond and are linked here with permission.  

1. The Lund bull
©Tom Hammond
 This reconstruction was a kind of collaboration between me and Tom, because I took one of his earlier reconstructions and modified its stance a bit to see how it would like in a position similar to that of the Augsburg aurochs painting by Charles Hamilton Smith. Tom then refined it, especially the head. I love the dark curly forelocks, the mealy mouth that is reduced in intensity in older bulls, and the massive head. It makes the animal look like a large old bull, except that an old bull might have had a longer trunk (the Lund bull probably was a young adult).

2. The Sassenberg bull
©Tom Hammond
©Tom Hammond
The Sassenberg bull was a senile specimen with worn teeth and a particularly long-snouted head. It probably reached more than 170 cm in life.

3. The Vig bull
©Tom Hammond
The Vig bull is an often-mentioned specimen due to the fact that it was found with several arrow-caused damages on its skeleton. It’s also remarkable because of its comparably upright and “cowish” horns, and the eye sockets are not as prominent as in other aurochs specimens. Tom Hammond’s reconstruction illustrates particularly very well what I imagine the head of this specimen to look like.

4. The Berlin skull
©Tom Hammond
The Berlin skull is a really large one; when I saw it the first time (before I was into the aurochs), I was struck by its size – next time I’ll take a measuring tape to measure it. Tom Hammond did this beautiful reconstruction using the photo I took, and the outcome resembles the head of some long-snouted Lidia bulls, just with mightier and slightly more upright horns.

5. The London skull
©Tom Hammond

I don’t know if the skull displayed at the Museum of London is the largest aurochs skull ever found (which is 92 cm long!), but it is certainly impressive. The life reconstruction shows that this bull aurochs was not hyper long-snouted compared primitive cattle, and with that and its wide-ranging but sharply inwards curving horns it reminds me of the head of the Maronesa bull that now lives semi-feral in the Portuguese rewilding reserve Faia brava.

6. Camebridge cow
©Tom Hammond
The Camebridge specimen has horns more upright and less strongly curved than large bull skulls, the eye sockets are not prominent at all and the trunk looks rather heavy. It’s 145 cm high at the shoulders. For me this makes it likely that it is a cow; yet it has a pretty large hump. Tom Hammond’s reconstruction shows the colour of a female Aurochs very nicely, exactly as we see it at Chauvet. As I mentioned previously, I did a reconstruction of the same specimen as well.

7. The Sassenberg cow
©Tom Hammond

This cow from Germany is more gracile than the Camebridge cow and also has smaller horns. The reconstruction beautifully shows what an athletic animal the aurochs was, very much unlike docile domestic cows.


  1. These wonderful images (and those of "Pachyornis" too) are of great value. They help us understand the animal so much better than do most of the images that have come before. Surely they will influence the selection process in the back breeding projects. Bravo!