PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Gesner Woodcut "Icones Animalium" 1560. Publ. Christoph Froschover, Zurich. In his account of the now extinct auroch, Gesner works from the account of Heberstein and directly from a woodcut by Augustin Hirsfogel (1556, 1533). Hirsfogel's near identical picture of the auroch has the inscription " I am a urus, called by the Poles a thur, by the Germans an aurox and hitherto also a bison by the ignorant". The confusion is doubtless because both bison and auroch were already rare in Europe - indeed the auroch less than a century from going extinct entirely. The auroch was the ancestor of domestic cattle, bulls reaching 1.8m at the withers, cows 1.5. Reports say they were blacker than this image represents them, with a pale strip down the back. There have been historical attempts to genetically reconstitute this wild species from cattle. This included the Nazi supported Heck cattle project.
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