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Heavy Breeding by Michael Wang

In biology, Europe, government, history, politics, research, science, war on August 18, 2012 at 05:47

 

From: Heavy Breeding by Michael Wang, Cabinet Magazine, http://www.cabinetmagazine.org

In 1920, the brothers Lutz and Heinz Heck, directors of the Berlin and Munich zoos, respectively, began a two-decade breeding experiment. Working with domestic cattle sought out for their “primitive” characteristics, they attempted to recreate “in appearance and behavior” the living likeness of the animals’ extinct wild ancestor: the aurochs. “Once found everywhere in Germany,” according to Lutz Heck, by the end of the Middle Ages the aurochs had largely succumbed to climate change, overhunting, and competition from domestic breeds.1

The last aurochs herds died out in the Polish-Lithuanian Union, where a documented population persisted under royal protection in Mazovia until the middle of the seventeenth century. Historical descriptions of these animals identified the aurochs as similar to domestic oxen, but entirely black, with a whitish stripe running down the back.2 More distant accounts emphasized their ferocity and imposing size. Julius Caesar described the aurochs of Germania as an elephantine creature prone to unprovoked attack.3

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Cabinet Magazine

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