The Tauros Programme
The Tauros Programme is an initiative of the Dutch Taurus Foundation. It's goal is to create a true replacement for one of the most impressive wild animals ever seen alive by men: Aurochs. We do so because it's our conviction that wild cattle is a missing link in European (and Asian) ecosystems. A conviction backed up by modern ecological science. Large herds of keystone grazing mammals were once roaming around Europe and creating biodiversity in their tracks. Bring back large herds of wild grazing mammals such as cattle horses, bison, deers and others in nature and the engine for creating and maintaining biodiversity is functioning again. The Taurus foundation focuses on wild cattle (although we've got truly wild horses as well).
Aurochs was the wild predecessor of all our modern cattle. In 1627 the wild animal went extinct, but in a way Aurochs still is very much alive. Its properties and genes live on, but ‘hidden’ in some of the original cattle breeds that withstood modernization thanks to stubborn farmers that held on to their old breeds. Cattle breeds without large udders, big beef buts or bred for aggression, but still possessing a lot of the original characteristics of Aurochs.
We want to get cattle back at the other side of the fence as a wild species, not longer as an agricultural animal. No 100% Aurochs-copy, because that's impossible. Therefore we call our animal: the Tauros. The Greek word for bull. We are developing populations of wild bovines as close as can be to Aurochs. As close as can be on looks, ecology and behaviour. Special about the Tauros Programme is that we also aim at getting the genes as right as can be. We've got a team of bovine genetic experts backing up our initiative. World leading scientists as prof. David McHugh (Trinity College Dublin) and Prof Dan Bradley (Dublin University), cooperation in our efforts to compare original breeds with Aurochs genes. The genetic research is being performed by Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the first scientific results are to be published in the second half of 2015. This genetic research is one of the key elements that distinguishing the Tauros Programme from other initiatives.
The Tauros Programme is operating on quite a large scale already. Thanks to our cooperation with Rewilding Europe and other European initiatives for rewilding herds of Tauros already are grazing in four different European countries. Others will follow soon and there's serious interest from other continents as well.
We do not use just any breed. Starting from a gross list we picked a selection of the most promising original breeds. From what we see in our first generations of Tauros we see that our choices of breeds leads to surprisingly fast results. Of course we're not there yet, but the first generations of animals already are slender animals of the right wild-type coloration. We've got work to do on the horns. Size and shape aren't there yet because Aurochs possessed a decent set of horns. But the input of large horned European breeds such as the (Italian) Maremmana primitiva, (Croatian) Boskarin and (Portugese) Maronesa eventually will do the job.
More promising results can be seen here