Friday, 27 October 2017

New aurochs bull reconstruction

About three weeks ago, I presented a recent drawing I did of Europe's megaherbivore fauna of the Holocene. I promised that I am going to present the aurochs of the drawing on a separate, refined version which is what I am going to do today. I do that because I think it is one of the most accurate aurochs artworks I did recently. 

It is not a reconstruction that is based on an actual skeleton, but it is based on such reconstructions. Actually, the basis for the drawing were the bull reconstructions that I did in June 2017. I did them by tracking out mounted skeletons (I corrected anatomical flaws in the mounts at first) to assure maximum precision: 
For my recent life illustration, I used the Vig bull and Kopenhagen bull (c and d) as a model, and decided to do it in a running pose. Here is the result (I decided to watermark it as I repeatedly made the experience that my drawings have been used without permission and crediting, which is not pleasant): 
While body shape and proportions are dictated by the skeletons and wild cattle anatomy, there are a few aspects that allow subjective decisions. For example, I could have given my aurochs larger horns. But as the horns of Holocene aurochs were smaller on average than those of Pleistocene ones (see here or here), I gave it medium-sized horns. The snout is slightly convex and the nose curves downwards a bit, which is a trait found in many Lidia bulls but also displayed by a skull of a British aurochs. Colouration also leaves room for speculation or subjective decisions (see here), such as the colour of the eel stripe, forelocks and extent of the lightly coloured muzzle. I gave my aurochs a yellowish eel stripe, as it is the most frequent colour in wildtype coloured bulls and written sources are not clear (they just speak of a "lightly coloured" stripe). The lightly coloured mouth is never mentioned in contemporaneous texts, and cave paintings show them only for cows. In wildtype coloured cattle, this trait is very prominent in almost all cows and also widespread in bulls, but aging bulls often have it reduced. In gaurs and bantengs, this trait does occur, but not in all individuals. So perhaps it was not that prominent in grown aurochs bulls as well. As for the colour of the forelocks, I decided to draw them black, as this is better supported by the evidence (see the post linked above). 

All in all, I am very happy with this aurochs drawing as it really shows a 100% of what I imagine a typical Holocene European aurochs bull to have looked like. Perhaps not surprising as it was me who did this drawing, but this is not always the case. The result also bears great similarity to many Lidia bulls (Spanish fighting bulls), but more on that on an upcoming post. 

My recent aurochs reconstructions and illustrations all have been rather bull-based, which is why cows are about to follow. 


  1. Nice drawing Daniël, i love the head (especially in comparison to most of the shortheaded majority of cattle including aurochstype ones).


  2. Good work and I agree that particular art example show some resemblance with Iberian Fighting cattle (Brava, Lidia, etc...).

  3. NICE, the auroch bull looks like a cross between a Spanish Fighting Bull and the Asian Gaur.

  4. Some news about the Tauros program.

  5. This study might interest you Daniël
    Distribution and Functionality of Copy Number Variation across European Cattle Populations.
    citation: Since north-western European cattle breeds harbor high frequency of aurochs’ specific alleles, probably as a result of secondary aurochs introgression (Park et al., 2015; Upadhyay et al., 2016), we investigated whether animals from these regions carry any unique CNVs. However, Vst based analysis did not identify any region specific CNV that might have introgressed from aurochs during secondary contact, i.e., CNV present only in animals of certain regions as a result of aurochs introgression. In the future, the availability of high-coverage sequence from archaic aurochs samples might aid researchers in identification of ancient CNVs in the genome of European cattle. Additionally, Vst based analysis also did not identify any breed-group differential CNVs, when contrasting HF (commercial breed) against IBR or BAI animals. This observation is consistent with a recent study on bovine population structure, where authors reported only few lineage-specific CNVs in breeds from the same continent, i.e., Holstein and Angus cattle breeds (Xu et al., 2016). However, quite a few breed-group differentiated CNVs between HF and BRI were identified, except a few, all of which turned out to be false positive CNVs. (My understanding of genetics is too poor)...
    One of the autors: Richard Crooymans (WUR) also studies hairsamples of individual dutch Taurus/Tauros-cattle.

  6. Remie Bakker from manimalworks is currently working on a life-sized Aurochs reconstruction. Thougt you might be interested.

  7. Where is the evidence that there were aurochs with convex skull profile?
    All the aurochs skulls I see on the web, have a straight or almost straight profile. Far from being convex or concave.

    1. There are some bull skulls with a slightly downturned nasal bone at the tip, indicating the snout might have been a little downturned as in some Lidia bulls. I would have to look which skulls in particular. Also, the snout is always a little convex, at least in bull skulls.