A very big bull!
Our visit to the Spanish bull-rings last week got me thinking about the ancestors of our domestic cow Bos taurus.
This is a 250,000 year old fossil skull of an aurochs. Aurochs, plural aurochsen, Bos primigenius, are the extinct ancestor of all our domestic cattle. The species inhabited Europe, Asia and North Africa and survived in Europe. The species was well known to our ancestors and appears in the cave paintings at Lascaux and elsewhere (see the extra photograph). The last recorded individual died in 1627 in Poland, in the Jaktorów Forest.
They would have been a formidable opponent for even the best of Matadors, the bulls weighing in at about 1,500 kg and standing 2 m tall at the shoulder.
The metre-long horns of the aurochs were very characteristic being curved in three directions: upwards and outwards at the base, then swinging forwards and inwards, then inwards and upwards.
The "horns" in the photograph are just the bony basal part, the horns themselves having rotted away long, long ago.