Bos primigenius 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Bos primigenius Bojanus, 1827
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Aurochs
French Auroch
Spanish Uro
Bos mauretanicus Thomas, 1881
Bos namadicus Falconer, 1859
Taxonomic Notes: The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (2003) ruled that the name Bos primigenius for this wild species is not invalid by virtue of being antedated by the name based on the domestic form. Therefore, IUCN considers the wild species of Aurochs under the name Bos primigenius, while the domestic forms of cattle are considered under Bos taurus (see Gentry et al., 2004). Grubb (2005) lists B. primigenius as a subspecies of B. taurus, contrary to most authors, but we do not follow that arrangement here.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Extinct ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Tikhonov, A.
Reviewer(s): Hilton-Taylor, C. & Temple, H. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species was extirpated from the majority of its range by the 15th century and persisted only in the Jaktorowka Forest, Masovia, Poland, with the last wild individual reputed to have died in 1627.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Bos primigenius is Extinct. The aurochs had three subspecies: Bos primigenius primigenius from Europe and the Middle East; B. p. namadicus from India; and B. p. mauretanicus from North Africa. Only the nominate subspecies has survived until recent times. Originally the aurochs occurred from the British Isles and southern Scandinavia, through most of Europe to northern Africa, the Middle East, central Asia and India. By the 13th century A.D., the aurochs' range was restricted to Poland, Lithuania, Moldova, Transylvania and East Prussia (The Extinction Website, 2007). The last recorded live aurochs, a female, died in 1627 in the Jaktorów (Jaktorowka) Forest, Masovia, Poland (Grubb, 2005).

It is distributed worldwide under domestication (as Bos taurus), and feral populations have become established in Australia, New Guinea, the United States, Colombia, Argentina and many islands, including Hawaii, Galápagos, Hispaniola, Tristan da Cunha, New Amsterdam, Juan Fernandez Islands, and the United Kingdom (Chillingham cattle).
Countries occurrence:
Regionally extinct:
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The right to hunt large animals on any land was restricted to nobles and gradually to the royal household (The Extinction Website, 2007). As the population of aurochs declined, hunting ceased but the royal court still required gamekeepers to provide open fields for the aurochs to graze in (The Extinction Website, 2007). The gamekeepers were exempted from local taxes in exchange for their service and a decree made poaching an aurochs punishable by death (The Extinction Website, 2007), but this was not enough to save the species. In 1564, the gamekeepers knew of only 38 animals, according to the royal survey (The Extinction Website, 2007). The last recorded live aurochs, a female, died in 1627 in the Jaktorów Forest, Poland (The Extinction Website, 2007).
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:0-0
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:There is uncertainty about the habitat preferences of the aurochs. The species appears to have preferred swamps and swamp forests, such as river valleys, river deltas, and bogs, but it probably also lived in drier forests, and perhaps in open parkland (The Extinction Website, 2007). In Europe, there might have been an ecological separation between the preferred habitat of the aurochs and that of the European bison (Bison bonasus), with the aurochs lived in somewhat wetter forests and the European bison in the somewhat drier forests (The Extinction Website, 2007), though the niches of these two species almost certainly overlapped (Van Vuure, 2003).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In central Poland in the forests of the village of Jaktorów for several centuries the managed of the remaining aurochs was well organised (The Extinction Website, 2007). Initially the animals were owned by nobility, but later they became royal possessions (The Extinction Website, 2007). There they were protected and fed during the winter period (The Extinction Website, 2007). However, the Kings Zygmunt I and his successor Zygmunt August had less interest than their predecessors and did little to preserve the animals, and the conservation measures weakened (The Extinction Website, 2007). After 1572, a period of political turmoil lead to a decrease in influence of the King. By 1604 only a few aurochs remained, and a Royal decree was issued stating that everything needed to be done to protect the aurochs and its habitat, but this was not enough (Van Vuure, 2003). The species disappeared because of hunting and competition on its feeding grounds with domesticated cattle (The Extinction Website, 2007). The last aurochs in Poland disappeared through a combination of lack of interest, corruption, cattle diseases, food competition (from domesticated cattle), and to a lesser extent, hunting (Van Vuure, 2003).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Not applicable.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.3. Wetlands (inland) - Shrub Dominated Wetlands
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.2. Small-holder grazing, ranching or farming
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

Bibliography [top]

Gentry, A., Clutton-Brock, J. and Groves, C. P. 2004. The naming of wild animal species and their domestic derivatives. Journal of Archaeological Science 31: 645-651.

Grubb, P. 2005. Artiodactyla. In: D.E. Wilson & D.M. Reeder (ed.), Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), pp. 637-722. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.

The Extinction Website. 2007. Bos primigenius primigenius. Available at:

Van Vuure, C. T. 2002. History, morphology and ecology of the aurochs (Bos taurus primigenius). Lutra 45: 1-16.

Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. 2005. Mammal Species of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Citation: Tikhonov, A. 2008. Bos primigenius. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T136721A4332142. . Downloaded on 22 September 2018.
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