Auroch 2.0

Cattle as we know them were once wild animals, just as the wolf is the still-living wild ancestor of the dog. The primal cattle lived in Europe for more than 250,000 years. They were imposing wild animals with complex behaviour. They could survive for hundreds of thousands of years in highly variable landscapes and climates among predators such as lion, tiger and wolf. Together with other ‘megaherbivores’ such as horse, elk, red deer and wisent, the animals had a great impact on the European landscape. So did many other now extinct species like the woolly rhino, giant deer, mammoth and ‘long-tusked elephant.

Key species for European biodiversity

It was a much rougher and wilder landscape than today with huge, roaming herds of large grazers. As a result, it was not a closed forest, but much more a cool version of African savannahs: semi-open, ever-changing and dynamic. Consequently also with a huge biodiversity, which has largely disappeared from our collective memory. This was the realm of the primal cattle, the King of the Wild, Europe’s heaviest land mammal after rhinos and mammoths disappeared. Hundreds of plant and animal species could only survive in the footsteps of those huge herds of cattle. This made the primeval cattle a key species for European biodiversity.


However, the wild primeval cattle were fiercely hunted, their habitat was taken and domesticated cattle gained the upper hand. In 1627, the last wild primeval cattle died. It was the first well-documented case of the extinction of a wild species. And not just any one, the primeval cattle was a key species and an icon for humanity.

European wilderness

Europe’s nature is becoming increasingly fragmented. Every year, 1 million hectares of farmland are abandoned by farmers with their animals. As a result, much biodiversity disappears, as species dependent on open areas have no chance. Rewilding Europe aims to turn this tide. A European initiative to Rewild ten large sample areas of 100,000 ha. But this can only happen if the original protagonists also reappear on the scene. The primeval cattle were one of them, one of the most important. In areas of Rewilding Europe, many cattle and horses are needed. Lots of them. And given the harsh conditions, a credible replacement for the primal cattle is needed.

The Tauros Programme

The Tauros programme started in 2008. By ‘backcrossing’ we developed the primal cattle 2.0, the Tauros – a breed of cattle that is indistinguishable externally from the former primal cattle, but that can also hold its own in modern conditions. Ultimately, we want there to be, in addition to the bovine as a farm animal, a truly wild bovine again, capable of shaping the new European wilderness. We are now already at the seventh generation. The Tauros is becoming more and more like the original. We closely monitor its development and currently select the ‘fittest’ animals to cross with, but eventually nature will take over.


The primal cattle are dead, long live the beef! The primal cattle may be extinct, but the genes of the primal cattle live on in all our domesticated cattle. Some wild places in Europe still have cattle breeds with many of the characteristics of the primal cattle. True, these breeds are also domesticated, but they have always been used to pull the plough. With that, the build has not changed that much. The scientific steering committee of the Tauro programme identified the most promising genes for the breeding programme. We do this based on the best available scientific knowledge and with a multidisciplinary team. The team consists of experts in genetics, ecology, molecular biology, archaeology, archaeozoology, history, and primal beef and fox experts. Genetics plays an important role in the programme. We now know the entire genome of primeval cattle (just as it has been unravelled for Neanderthals). With this, we can genetically screen the offspring of the programme for similarities with the primeval cattle and thus accelerate the breeding programme.

International cooperation and interest

Since 2011, we have collaborated within the Tauros programme with other organisations such as Brabants Landschap, ARK Rewilding Nederland and Rewilding Europe. The aim of this collaboration is to share our knowledge and, of course, to allow the Tauros to occupy the place that the primeval cattle once occupied: as a key species and icon of European nature.

Interest in our Tauros is growing rapidly, both in the Netherlands and internationally. In cooperation with Rewilding Europe, herds are already running in Spain, Portugal, Croatia and Romania. But interest is also growing from other countries. Rewilding is hot (or cool) and the Tauros is by far the coolest animal to rewild.

Samenwerkende organisaties

Want to support us?

We aim to keep genetic tracking throughout the programme. For example, by taking hair samples. Financing this costly research remains a concern. We cannot realise our ambitions without external funding. See how you can contribute and benefit from a sponsorship agreement with Grazelands.