Sunday, 14 September 2014

Female aurochs remastered

I was thinking about my reconstructions of aurochs females lately and found that I was reconstructing them too slim when I look at the skeletons. There seemingly are not as many mounted female aurochs skeletons as there are bulls (why? is there a fossil sex bias, or are they not mounted as often because they are less impressive? Both explanations don't sound credible to me), so I always have to use the cow skeletons from/at Sassenberg and Cambridge. I had a look at the skeletons recently and realized that my previous reconstructions are too slim. The ribcage of the skeletons is deeper and the leg bones probably indicate more massive limbs. Apart from that, I think I exaggerated the slenderness of the abdomen. I used young Lidia cows as a comparison, but looking at the original skeletons, female Gaurs and Bantengs but also Wisents, I now think the abdomen should be heavier. 
Both these reconstructions show the Sassenberg specimen (the horn tips in the lower restoration do not curve correctly inwards by the way). 
A while ago I edited the abdomen of both my cow and bull model on the photos showing them in profile, and they immediately looked more natural. But I still felt the cow wasn't entirely correct, especially when considering that the Cambridge specimen is a bit heavier than the one from Sassenberg. So I did a new reconstruction, again based directly on tracking out the original skeleton. This time I also decided not to show the animal in a short and shiny summer coat like I always did before, but in a shaggier coat that cattle have during fall before developing a full winter fur coat. I gave it a chestnut-brown colour comparable to deer, which is one way to interpret Schneeberger's text and also what Cis van Vuure considers a likely colour for female aurochs. As a template for that colour I used Maronesa and Heck cattle cows of the W├Ârth lineage. I also made the colour a little bit duller and darker, because cattle fur is darker during winter than during summer (more on that in a future post). This is the result: 
I am very happy with the result. The animal looks much more credible and natural than in my previous reconstructions and also better fits the original skeleton. It is also satisfying that the discrepancy between the build of female aurochs and the cows of many of the primitive breeds seems to be not as big as I previously assumed. The trunk of Chianina, on the other hand, is not nearly as deep (see here, for example). This bears the risk of some crossbreeds to have an actually too slender thorax. 

One reason why I chose the darker brown colour for this individual is that I think it is a credible and suitable colour for Central European landscape. Just look at Wisents and Red deer. This colour also is present in the fall-winter coat of a lot of Heck cattle at Oostvaardersplassen, and they seem very well camouflaged: 
However, the reddish-brown or even orangish-brown colour shades as much as those cows with a nearly totally black colour and a reddish saddle definitely existed, as we know trough cave paintings and the fact that those colours are very widespread among primitive cattle. I am going to do differently coloured versions of my reconstruction above when I have the time for it. 

By the way, the Sassenberg individual was not small-horned as it might look at this drawing. The horns just look that way in profile view, as their width is not visible at this perspective. 

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