1551 Gesner hunting the extinct auroch

1551 Gesner hunting the extinct auroch

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This image is part of the feature Wiped out by man

Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Gesner Woodcut "Icones Animalium" 1560, reproduced from 1551. Published Christoph Froschover, Zurich. Gesner features both the European bison and auroch - but this hunting scene relates to the auroch (Urus) rather than the bison (though the animal he featured here differs from both his separate bison and auroch representations, and combines a little of both). The confusion is doubtless because both animals were already rare in Europe - the Auroch less than a century from going extinct entirely. The auroch is the ancestor of domestic cattle, bulls reaching 1.8m at the withers, cows 1.5. Hunting contributed to their demise. They are represented in European cave paintings, but were largely forgotten until the 19th century. Various attempts to reconstitute the species from genes in domestic cattle have been made in the last century. Ref the Nazi interest in Heck cattle as an Aryan symbol.

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Keywords: 16th century, ancestor, animalium, artwork, auroc, auroch, aurok, bestiary, bos, cattle, colour, conrad, domestic, domestication, early, extinct, extinction, gesner, gessner, heck, historiae, hunting, icones, illustration, natural history, nazi, primigenius, urus, woodcut

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