Most or all modern cattle are direct descendants of the aurochs; the South Asian domestic cattle, the zebu, may be descended from a related species, the gaur. Modern cattle have become much smaller than their wild forebears: the height at the withers of a domesticated cow is about 1.4 meters, whereas an aurochs could reach about 1.75 meters.
Aurochs are depicted in many cave paintings such as those found at Lascaux and Livernon in France. In these and many other early art works, the aurochs are attributed with magical qualities. Early carvings of the aurochs have also been found. The impressive and dangerous aurochs survived into the Iron Age in Anatolia and the Near East, and was worshiped throughout the area as a sacred animal, the Lunar Bull, associated with the Great Goddess and later with Mithra. In the area of the southern Caucasus and northern Mesopotamia, domestication of the aurochs was undertaken from about 5000 BCE.
A 1999 archaeological dig in Peterborough, England, uncovered the skull of an aurochs but the front part of the skull had been removed but the horns remained attached. The supposition is that the killing of the aurochs in this instance was a sacrificial act.
In the 1920s two German zookeepers— brothers by the names of Heinz and Lutz Heck— attempted to breed the aurochs back into existence from the domestic cattle that were their descendants. The result is the breed called Heck Cattle, or "Recreated Aurochs" or "Heck Aurochs", which bears a physical resemblance to what is known about the wild aurochs. The major difference is in size: a recreated aurochs bull is not much larger than the bull of most breeds of domestic cattle, while wild aurochs bulls are believed to have often exceeded 1000 kilograms, half the size of a rhinoceros.
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