Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Skeletons, Skulls and horn sheaths: Photos by Markus Bühler

Markus Bühler from the Bestiarium (I highly recommend you this blog - you'll find a loads of info and photos on various fields of zoology there, and also on some extinct animals) kindly provided me with a lot of photos of aurochs material from a number of museums that he visited. Perhaps some of you already know some of these, because a few of them have been published either on the web or Walter Frisch's "Der Auerochs - das europäische Rind". The material includes complete skeletons, (partial) skulls and also horn sheaths. 

One particular interesting skull is this one from museum of natural history of Stuttgart: 

(Before anyone gets confused, the two lower photos show Bison schoetensacki, Bubalus murrensis and once again, I presume, Bison schoetensacki) As you see the horns of this skull are remarkable in their curvature, i.e. because their tips do not really face inwards and they are rather wide-ranging. Their shape resembles that of many Heck and Highland cattle, but do not forget that this is only the bony core - with the keratinous sheath, their curvature would certainly be more pronounced. Because of the comparably gracile eye sockets and preorbital skull I suppose that this aurochs was a female. 
This skull below is located at Stuttgart as well and shows a curvature that is more typical of the aurochs: 
These two skulls are displayed in the Vivarium Karlsruhe: 
The - in my opinion - coolest horns those of that partial cranium that is displayed at the natural history museum of Mainz: 
These horns remind me of those of some individuals of the Wörth/Steinberg lineage and their relatives (f.e. this and this cow). I can't say with certainity whether this individual was a female or a male aurochs, but I think the massiveness of the horns and the frontal portion suggest it was a bull. 
This partial skull from the palaeontological museum of Tübingen: 
I suspect this one was a female, because of the gracile frontal and eye sockets. 

The next photo shows two different specimen. The upper left skull with the darker colour is, according to the sign next to it (not visible) the oldest and largest aurochs skull found in Scandinavia. The other individual is that skeleton that was found on Prejlerup and is displayed at the Zoological Museum of Kopenhagen and, in my opinion, resembles a fighting bull with its strong, energetic stature: 

The knees are flexioned slightly too much, but it is apparent that the processi spinosi are rather long and the "hump" therefore pretty large. Probably the maximum of what is seen in Lidia, or perhaps even a bit more. The skull is more compact overall than is the dark one, and also its horns are smaller and curve more stringently inwards. Both individuals are very likely to be bulls, as the broad frontals, prominent eye-sockets, small eyes and, in the case of the dark one, very elongated snout show. 

These two skulls are on display in the Museum for Hunt in Hørsholm, Denmark. I cannot say much on the upper skull, but the other one is interesting for me because of its - by bull standards, and that one is very likely a male - rather elevated horns. I am sure this one was the reference for this life-sized reconstruction, located at the same Museum:
This reconstruction is awesome. The hump could be more pronounced, but still awesome. Its coat is longer and rougher than in typical domestic cattle, the forelocks are prominent, the proportions as much as head and horns are correct. Maybe not easily visible, it has a reddish dorsal stripe. And the posture is dynamic and lively. Someone has done a really, really good job here! I'd love to see this great piece of work in real, it would give a good impression of what an aurochs would look like if you'd encounter it on a forest edge during fall. 

The last skeleton I present here is the famous Vig specimen: 
Markus took more than those four shots of course, and some of them already are on the internet. This specimen is remarkable for 1) its size, 2) the visible spear-caused damages (the Prejlerup bull has such as well). More on that specimen in a later post. I only want to give away that Markus provided me with a photo that enabled me to calculate the size of this specimen by using the platform from which I extrapolated the projection point and used a person with a known size of 192 cm as reference. It resulted that the skeleton should be 182 cm tall at the end of the processi spinosi. 

The last photo shows a number of ornamented horn sheaths at the Livrustkammaren in Stockholm: 
Each royal family in Europe has drinking horns, and some colleges, universities and museums do so as well. Ornamented horns are not necessarily of the aurochs - bison horns were used as well, or those of domestic cattle -, but I think that these horns or at least most of them are of aurochs for sure. Curvature, thickness, size and colour fit. I was told that they are not extremely large, but late aurochs had ever smaller horns due to anthropogenic influence such as environment limitation or trophy hunt. But of course it is possible that some drinking horns out there may actually be from domestic cattle with a very similar horn shape. 

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