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Aurochs facts for kids

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Temporal range: Late Pliocene to Holocene
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Bovinae
Genus: Bos
Species: B. primigenius
Binomial name
Bos primigenius

Bos primigenius primigenius
  (Bojanus, 1827)
Bos primigenius namadicus
  (Hugh Falconer, 1859)
Bos primigenius mauretanicus
  (Thomas, 1881)

Bos primigenius Vig uroksen
Aurochs skeleton in Denmark.
Heck cattle male
Heck cattle look similar to the Aurochs

The Aurochs, or urus, (Bos primigenius) was a large species of cattle, once common in Europe but now extinct. It was a wild animal, not a domesticated animal. The extinct aurochs/urus is a completely separate species from the wisent (the European bison).

According to the Paleontologisk Museum, University of Oslo, aurochs developed in India some two million years ago, came into the Middle East and farther into Asia, and reached Europe about 250,000 years ago. They were once thought a different species from modern European cattle (Bos taurus), but today not any more.

Modern cattle have become much smaller than their wild ancestors: the height of a large domesticated cow is about 1.5 meters (5 feet, 15 hands), while aurochs were about 1.75 meters (5.75 feet, 17 hands).

Aurochs also had several features not often seen in modern cattle, such as lyre-shaped horns set at a forward angle, a pale stripe down the spine, and different color according to the gender. Males were black with a pale stripe down the spine, while females and calves were reddish (these colours are still found in a few domesticated cattle breeds, such as Jersey cattle). Aurochs were also known to have very aggressive behaviour, and killing one was seen as an act of courage in ancient cultures.


At one time there were three aurochs subspecies, namely Bos primigenius namadicus (Falconer, 1859) that occurred in India, the Bos primigenius mauretanicus (Thomas, 1881) from North Africa and the Bos primigenius primigenius (Bojanus, 1827) from Europe and the Middle East. Only the European subspecies survived until recent times.

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