The ‘Rewilding Europe’ project focuses on bringing back some of the ancient European wild cattle. The entire project work might take your thoughts to the movie ‘The Jurassic Park', which indeed is absolutely true here, but instead of dinosaurs here, cattle might rule the wild!
Do you know what’s back breeding?
Well, if you need to understand the how the ‘Rewilding Europe’ will work, you must eat some rudiments about back breeding. There is no serious genetic engineering in this process, rather it’s a pure game of selection. Here the breeding of a domestic animal is selectively controlled in order to breed back to their wild ancestor, which usually might be an extinct species. The process aims at uniting certain traits that descended from the original wild species, which happened to split into what it is today called the domestic variants. But it must be understood that back breeding alone won’t resurrect the original wild type, however, there are many factors that influence the selective breeding & it might take you to the closest wild breed possible but not the exact original one.
In the ‘Rewilding Europe’ project a long lost wild cattle ‘Aurochs’ is the prime focus. They inhabited the early Europe once, standing almost 7ft tall with a whopping 1-ton weight. But human intervention possibly might have sent them into books and the last known Auroch died in 1627. For hundreds and thousands of years, wild aurochs ruled the meadows and forests, which in fact shaped the landscape of present day Europe. ‘The Tauros Project’ and ‘Operation Tauros’ are two main programs coloring the initiative for rewilding Europe.
A quest for wild Auroch
Back breeding is actually the key factor that enabled the researchers to compile more and more wild traits from the bred cattle. More noticeable traits pop up as the gap closes. As a part of Tauros project, the back breeding techniques commenced around 2008, as the generation passed researchers came closer to the phenotypically superior Auroch as they expected. According to the lead author of the study, scientists were able to obtain a batch of cattle that looks similar in color & stripe pattern to that of wild Auroch.
However, the Operation Tauros had already been through 300 cattle calves that possess similar DNA as that of the wild variety. Unlike Tautos project, here extensive genetic engineering is used in order to obtain genetically similar wild variety. However the lead author of the study do agree that they may not be able to resurrect the 100% original wild variety though back breeding, but latest genetic engineering approaches might be the key to bring the original ancestor back on wild!
The importance of this study
The best part of the study is that scientists have the original 100% pure wild strain DNA of an Auroch which they managed to collect from a 6700 year old humerus bone from a cave in UK, back in 2014. This would aid the researchers to compare how close they are to the wild strain. But the setback would be the undesirable controversy and ethical fight pulled by some. But the project is still on and doesn’t seemed to have affected by any of these. ‘Obtaining the closest wild breed might even take 10 year’ – says the lead author of Tauros Project. Resurrecting herbivores like Aurochs might be very important as it provides a balance to the ecosystem, without which the forest might regenerate faster. And it is these herd of cattle that shape the landscape which indeed is a blessing to other animals and creatures.