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Scientists Are Remaking "Supercows" Extinct For Almost 500 Years

The typical dairy cow you'll see at a farm or a petting zoo doesn't look very intimidating. Sure, they're pretty big, but they're gentle giants and you can even ride them around the farm.

Their ancestors the auroch, on the other hand, were some tough customers. Some weighed as much as 3,000 pounds, and they had huge horns that could be over two feet long.

When these fluffy monsters roamed Europe, they had no trouble grazing wherever they liked, and didn't have to worry about being hassled by predators. After all, would you pick a fight with a 3,000 pound cow?

That's why scientists trying to re-balance Europe's environment are hoping to reintroduce aurochs to the wild, using a special breeding program to bring the big cows back to life.

Aurochs were one of the first species that people hunted to extinction. They once roamed all over Europe, but by 1564 there were only 38 known to still be alive. The last female auroch died in 1627, but lots of cow species with auroch DNA are still alive around the world.

People have been breeding cows to "remake" aurochs as far back as the 1920s, but mostly these were publicity stunts for zoos.

Now, scientists are hoping these giant cows will help save the environment. Lots of smaller animals, like turtles, depended on aurochs to eat huge areas of grass, and since they disappeared these smaller animals have been pushed out of their homes.  

The Tauros Programme is working hard to build these supercows, and plans to have a 100% match for the auroch by 2025. According to the project's founder Ronald Goderie, hundreds of plant and animal species depend on their relationship with big animals like the auroch, so bringing them back would be a big win for animal lovers everywhere.

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